Progress Notes: I'm abandoning this story. My apologies to anyone who was enjoying it, but between my beta not getting back to me, and then having to wait 6 or 7 months for a new beta, and then not particularly clicking with that beta, and Deathly Hallows being as bad as it was, I've just sort of lost interest. There is a part of me that wants to finish this story, especially since DH was, in my opinion, dreadful, but every time I try to work on this project it seems like "work" and not at all like "fun". For those who are interested, there are a couple of extra "un-betaed" chapters up on fanfiction.net (I think it gets up to chapter 11 or 12). Thanks for the reviews and support.
A misty fog held low to the ground, slightly obscuring the rows of abandoned Muggle warehouses that lined the darkened, silent streets. This was not the kind of area one would normally be found in at this time of night unless one was looking to score heroin, or get killed... or both. The faint pops that broke the yawning silence threatening to swallow the neighborhood augured the appearance of two figures dressed in black cloaks and hoods.
The taller of the two figures, Severus Snape, pulled Draco Malfoy down into a defensive posture and put his finger to his lips, gesturing for quiet. He looked around for a few minutes as if attempting to sense the presence of someone or something. When at long last he appeared satisfied that they were alone, he gestured for Draco to follow him. Staying low to the ground, they wound their way along the cracked pavement littered with needles, broken whiskey bottles, and used condoms that snaked its way among the darkened warehouses. Snape paused again, looking to his left. When he was satisfied that there was no one ahead of them, he motioned for Draco to follow him as he slunk quietly up the alleyway.
The sound of a bottle gently hitting the pavement caused Snape to stop suddenly and tense up. He forcefully stuck his arm out behind him to stop Draco from moving any farther, but the other, not ready for it, toppled over backwards.
“Oos ‘at?” asked a slurred voice from the darkness. “Ian, ‘at you?” The voice was reedy and cracked from years of self abuse. Snape glared at Draco, who was still in the midst of getting back on his feet, as if he could have murdered him right then and there. Snape remained silent, waiting for the voice to sound again so that he could track its exact location. “Oi! Ian! You back? You got the goods?” Slowly and silently, Snape drew his wand from the folds of his cloak, aimed it at the place where the voice was emanating from and thought to himself “Obliviate!”
A jet of light flew from his wand down the alley, followed by a feeble grunt and then the dull thud of flesh hitting pavement. Snape let out a breath and then snapped his head towards his former student. “What the hell is wrong with you, Draco?” he hissed under his breath. “You’re not making it very easy for me to save your ass.”
Draco glared at his former Head of House. “You don’t want me to fall down, then don’t shove me,” he hissed back.
Snape drew a slow breath as the urge to slap the arrogant little bastard welled up inside him. After a moment, he composed himself and said quietly, “Just keep close and keep quiet.” They continued to snake down the alleyway, passing the junkie, now unconscious on the pavement. “Probably did him a favor,” Snape thought to himself. “When he wakes, he won’t even remember he’s an addict.” When they finally came to a halt in front of a rather old, weather-beaten ad for some brand of Muggle toothpaste, he drew his wand and tapped the toothy grin in the advert and a door materialized. “In,” ordered Snape, “quickly.”
Once they were both inside, Snape immediately closed the door, which vanished as soon as it was sealed. Raising his wand, he muttered “Muffliato,” followed by, “Lumos.”
Draco had to stifle a gag as the foul stench of rotting rat carcasses hit his nose. He looked around in disgust at the graffitied, dilapidated brick warehouse he now found himself in and sneered at Snape. “What kind of filthy Muggle shithole have you brought me to?”
Before Draco could react, Snape replied with the back of his hand to Draco’s face. Malfoy’s head snapped back, and when his nose began to bleed, Snape looked as if he realized that he had hit the boy a little harder than he had intended. Draco flinched as Snape drew his wand and pointed it at his nose. “Hold still, Draco. I need to stop the bleeding.” He reluctantly obeyed as his former potions master uttered, “Episkey.”
The bleeding immediately stopped, but that didn’t stop Draco from staring at his former teacher in utter shock. Wiping the residue of blood from his face with the sleeve of his robe, he eyed Snape icily. “When my father hears about this-”
“I didn’t mean to strike you Draco, but you must understand the severity of the situation. Now is not the time for you to talk. If you want to stay alive you must listen to me and do everything I say. Understood?” Draco gave his former potions master a glare of deep loathing before nodding sullenly. His eyes followed Snape as the potions master glided over to an old breaker box and flipped a switch, which bathed the room in harsh, fluorescent light.
Draco eyes narrowed to a squint at the unexpected flood of light. “What are you doing? Someone will see us!” he hissed. Snape sighed at him, and as if speaking to a three-year-old, said, “Look around you Draco. Do you see any windows?” Malfoy knew the answer without even looking around and merely shook his head. “Now, for the second time this evening, I beg of you, Shut up and do as I say!”
Snape conjured two chairs in the middle of the room. “Sit down,” he ordered. Draco sat on the hard wooden chair across from Snape, glaring at him. The potions master was treating him like a petulant child and he resented him for it.
“The Dark Lord will be very displeased with you, Draco, and there is nothing I can do to change that. You failed in your task, and for that you will be punished.”
“But I got them into Hogwarts... I didn’t fail completely,” he protested lamely, knowing deep down that Voldemort wouldn’t give a rat’s ass.
“This is true,” muttered Snape, “...which is why he won’t kill you.” Draco’s heart leapt with hope.
“You have proven yourself to be at least somewhat resourceful, and it is my opinion that he never expected you to succeed in the first place. He is, however, extremely angry at your father – you must know that. Lucius’s actions have cost the Dark Lord dearly and he feels that you must repay the debt owed to him by your family for your father’s mistakes. Your last-minute change of heart will not help matters”
Draco growled as he bolted up from his seat, his face inches away from Snape’s. “I had him! I was going to kill him! I would have succeeded if you hadn’t interfered! And now I’m going to be punished? Because you interfered?” “Merlin’s balls!” he thought to himself, “now I do feel like a petulant child.”
Snape fixed him with an icy gaze, and seemingly unfazed, wiped the flecks of spit off of his face. “You had no intentions of killing him, Draco. You are lying to me and to yourself. And I tell you now, if you try to perpetrate that lie on the Dark Lord, you will wish you had never been born.”
Draco’s eyes looked down towards the ground as he sunk back into his chair. He could feel his chest constricting and his face becoming hot. “Control yourself Draco! You will NOT let him see you cry!” Fixing his eyes on the cold cement floor, he managed to croak, “So what happens now; what do I do?”
Snape grabbed his face and yanked it upward until their eyes were locked. He had never seen Snape look so intense and fierce in his life – and that was saying something after what he had witnessed mere hours ago when that snotty blood traitor Potter had called him a coward. “You will tell him the truth. He will know the truth either way; he may already know what happened. You will answer his questions directly and without embellishment, presenting only the facts. You will show no fear or any emotion at all. When he punishes you, you will not cry out or beg for forgiveness, and when he is done, you will thank him for being merciful.”
Draco felt his stomach rising into his throat. Resisting the urge to vomit, he focused on his hands, trying desperately to still them. Draco’s mind was racing, searching for a loophole, any way he could escape what he knew would soon come. He knew that the search was futile and mocked himself for trying. There was a long silence before Draco choked out, “What will he do to me?”
Snape stared fixedly into Draco’s eyes for a moment and then let out a tiny sigh. “The Dark Lord seems to prefer the Cruciatus Curse in these instances.” Draco shut his eyes and silently put his head in his hands. He had already seen the effects of that particular curse when he had used it, and he didn’t have a thousandth of Voldemort’s power. “When the curse hits you,” Snape continued, “use Occlumency as best you can. It will not save you from the pain, but it will... dull it somewhat.”
Draco, looking at the ground, noticed that his hands were trembling even worse than before. He finally gave up on the foolish notion of trying to steady them. “Surely you could talk to him sir, you’re his favorite, you could...”
Snape held his hand up. “The Dark Lord will not be convinced otherwise, nor am I stupid enough to attempt it. I have already prepared myself to receive the same punishment as you for disobeying him. He will no doubt punish Narcissa as well.”
“My mother had nothing to do with this!” Draco roared.
“Your mother had everything to do with this! She made me take an Unbreakable Vow. She made me swear that if you couldn’t kill Dumbledore, I would finish the job for you, and your Aunt Bellatrix was the bonder. You failed in your task, and the three of us blatantly disobeyed him. He will punish us all for our insolence.”
The fear of Voldemort’s wrath dissolved for a moment as the thought of protecting his mother came to the fore of his consciousness. “You could have refused. She didn’t make you do anything.”
“Do you think so, Draco? Do you think I could have refused her when she and Lucius are the closest thing I have to a family? Could I have refused to protect the closest thing I have to a nephew?” Draco looked up at him wide eyed, not quite believing what he had just heard. “Yes Draco, believe it or not, I care about your wellbeing.”
“What about her wellbeing? What will he do to her?”
“Your mother will receive the same punishment as us all, Draco. She has lived through the Cruciatus Curse before, she will live through it again. We must go now; the Dark Lord is expecting us, and if we are late it will only make matters worse. Are you ready?” Draco steeled himself and nodded.
In the damp castle dungeon, Voldemort was pacing impatiently in front of the semicircle of Death Eaters standing before him. “It seems that Christmas has come early this year my friends! Dumbledore murdered within Hogwarts’ own walls – what better news could I hope for? And yet, I confess myself to be disappointed that the ones responsible for this great deed have not yet seen fit to celebrate with us.” Fenrir Greyback stifled a snort. Being one of the few Death Eaters at Hogwarts a few hours ago, he was also one of the few who understood what Voldemort actually meant by “celebrate,” and as far as he was concerned, he couldn’t wait for the “celebration” to begin.
As if on cue, a door opened and Wormtail, unconsciously rubbing the silver fingers of his left hand as he shifted nervously up to his master announced, “Severus and the Malfoy boy have arrived, my lord.”
“Well, see them in, Wormtail, see them in! The guests of honor should not be kept waiting.” Wormtail scurried off to the iron banded door through which he had emerged, and a moment later scurried back through, followed by Draco and Snape, who took their positions among the circle of Death Eaters.
“Ah, here they are finally. The men of the hour! But why the delay, Severus? Did you encounter a problem when leaving the school?”
“No, my lord, I simply thought it prudent to take extra precautions in case we were being followed by members of the Order of the Phoenix.” Had Draco not been wearing a hood and mask, Voldemort would have instantly seen his eyes bulge and his mouth drop open at the potion master’s bold-faced lie.
“So am I to assume that everything went according to plan?” Voldemort’s eyes were locked on Snape’s, practically daring the man to utter a falsehood.
Snape’s countenance remained completely unreadable. “...No, my lord. There were certain... difficulties, but the end result was the same. Albus Dumbledore is dead.”
Draco knew that Snape was going to bat for him in the only way the man could without ensuring his own death sentence, but he also knew that it was an utterly futile effort.
“No, sadly, Severus, everything did not go according to plan. But perhaps I should ask young Malfoy exactly what went wrong, seeing as it was his task to complete.” Voldemort shifted his gaze to Draco and motioned him forward. Taking a deep breath, Malfoy stepped forward and knelt on the cold, damp dungeon floor before the Dark Lord, kissing the hem of his black robes. Draco looked up and could feel the Dark Lord’s eyes boring holes into his own.
“Did you kill Albus Dumbledore as I had asked?”
“No, my lord, I had him alone, but I couldn’t do it.”
“And why is that?”
Trying desperately to stave off the wave of panic that was starting to engulf him, he blurted out, “I don’t know, my lord. He started to talk to me, to say that he could protect me, protect my parents, and I don’t know what happened.” Draco quickly squashed the notion of trying to convince Voldemort that Dumbledore had somehow tricked or hypnotized him.
“I know exactly what happened, Draco. You, like your father, are weak and pathetic. Your entire family is beginning to become tiresome. Such high hopes I had for the Malfoy clan when I first met your father, and look at you now. Lucius rotting away in Azkaban, you trembling before me, your mother wondering whether or not I plan on killing you.…” He could hear a choked sob from the back of the room that he immediately recognized as his mother’s. He blocked it from his mind, not wanting his shields to weaken. Voldemort continued, “How fast and far has the Malfoy clan fallen... such a shame. So tell me, Draco, if you did not kill Dumbledore, who did? None of my followers have taken credit for it, though I’m sure all of them would have liked to, so if not you, then who?”
Draco took a deep breath. Despite the fact that he knew that Voldemort was already aware of the evening’s proceedings, he still felt like a traitor.
“Professor Snape, my lord.”
Voldemort returned his gaze to Snape. “Is this true, Severus? Did the great Albus Dumbledore die at your hands? Well then, congratulations are due, yet... I must confess I find this hard to believe since you were specifically told to let the boy do it on his own. Young Malfoy seems to be telling the truth, unless of course he is a much better Occlumens than I realized.”
Snape’s face remained completely impassive. “The boy is telling the truth, my lord. When I realized he was not capable of killing Dumbledore, I took matters into my own hands while there was still time.”
“You have never disobeyed me before, Severus. I wonder what could have caused you to disobey me after being such a reliable servant for all these years. It must have been something remarkably powerful to be sure.”
“He knows,” Draco thought. “He knows about the vow.”
Voldemort turned quickly to Draco and responded as if it had been said aloud. “Yes, I know about the Unbreakable Vow! I know that four of my followers have disobeyed direct orders!” Voldemort began to pace slowly about the room like a lion stalking its prey. “I am saddened and angered by this. I don’t know who I can trust anymore. Being disappointed by a Malfoy is no surprise, but Severus and Bellatrix? This indeed saddens me. Finding out that those I thought were closest to me and most loyal disobeyed orders saddens me greatly. And yet, one could argue that all’s well that ends well. You did manage to get the Death Eaters into the castle, and Albus Dumbledore is dead, so perhaps I should be merciful.” Draco, not believing for a second that there was any way Voldemort planned on being merciful, was controlling his breathing, clearing his mind, and hoping that Snape was right about it reducing the severity of the pain. Voldemort stopped pacing directly in front of Draco.
“Do you think I should be merciful?”
Draco stole a quick glance at Snape, whose stony exterior revealed less than nothing. Checking his Occlumency shields once more, Draco focused on the granite wall around his mind and replied, “No, my lord. I failed you and deserve to be punished.” He heard his mother’s cries of protest and doubled his concentration on the wall that would hopefully lessen the severity of the pain.
“You will live past tonight, Draco. You have been forthright with me and that was a wise decision. Had you lied, you and your mother would be dead right now. As it is you must accept your punishment. Are you ready?”
“Yes, my lord.” Draco closed his eyes and steeled himself...
When he opened his eyes again, he was no longer in the dark moldy dungeon, but appeared to be in a forest of some kind. Massive firs and pines engulfed the landscape in front of him, and a light dusting of snow lay on the ground. Draco’s first thought was that he was ravenously hungry, as if he hadn’t eaten in years. His second was that he was desperately cold, and it was then he realized that he was almost completely naked except for a loincloth and a sheath that contained a rusty dagger.
A thousand thoughts entered his mind at once. “What the hell is going on?” “Did Voldemort exile me?” “Where the hell am I?” “Where is my wand?” “Why am I so goddamned hungry?” He had expected the Cruciatus Curse. Maybe Voldemort was going to show him at least some mercy; after all, he had gotten the Death Eaters into Hogwarts; he hadn’t failed completely. He began to look around to see if the place seemed familiar at all. It didn’t seem anything at all like the Forbidden Forest, at least not the parts of it that the fat oaf Hagrid had taken him to. Perhaps Voldemort was at Durmstrang and he had left him in the woods outside the castle as punishment. That had to be it – it was the only thing that made sense; Durmstrang was somewhere in the North in the middle of a forest, and was known to be a Death Eater stronghold. This was a test of his strength. He had to make it back to the castle with no wand to aid him. Voldemort wanted him to prove that he wasn’t weak, and Draco was not about to disappoint him.
He had no idea which direction to go, and without a wand to point the way, he thought it was best to follow his instincts. He set off, shivering, walking through the forest looking for any sign of civilization. After hours of fruitless walking, his mind more on his all-consuming hunger with every step he took, he saw a path. It was rough and crude, but it was definitely a path through the forest. As he was moving towards it, a wild boar came bolting out of the forest and scurried along it, heading what Draco was almost positive was north. His hunger overwhelming him, Draco took off at top speed after it.
The boar was incredibly fast, but Draco was not to be denied. With a savage glint in his eye, the aching hunger overwhelming his thoughts, he sped after the frightened animal. His leg muscles were screaming with pain, but Draco refused to relent. He kept running as hard as he could, taking in air in great giant gulps to quell the stitch in his side. He was gaining on it. If he could just keep up. He couldn’t quit – he had to show Voldemort, his father, he had to show himself that he wouldn’t quit, that he was worthwhile. He was still fifteen feet behind the animal when it stumbled over a tree root in the path. Draco pounced on the boar like a crazed lion, and thrust the rusty dagger into its back. Hot blood jetted up into Draco’s face, momentarily blinding him; the animal squealed in pain and threw Draco off.
He was up in a flash and after the wounded animal again. It was no match for him now that it was wounded, and he caught up to it quickly. He jumped on the terrified animal’s back and began thrusting the dagger into its flesh like a madman. The boar thrashed around wildly, trying to shake free of its attacker, all the while emitting spine chilling squeals of fear and pain. Finally the screaming animal slowed to a halt and dropped to the ground. Draco, panting heavily, his eyes glazed over with hunger, rolled the boar onto its back and cut it open, watching its entrails spill onto the ground, its unearthly squealing frightening the birds in the trees above until they joined in the symphonic cacophony of noise.
Shaking with cold, adrenaline overload and hunger, Malfoy thrust his hand into the animal’s chest and with one great heave, ripped its heart from its body. The boar let out a final blood-curdling scream before the light left its eyes. Draco took the still warm heart and sank his teeth into it, blood spurting onto his face and running down his chest. His terrible hunger subsided almost as soon as he swallowed the first piece of the animal’s flesh. It was then that he started to feel dizzy, as if the world was turning upside down. The light was quickly fading until all Draco could see was the boar beneath him and all he could hear was the screaming of the birds above, which very quickly morphed into the sound of laughter...
...and when the Imperius Curse was lifted, Draco Malfoy was back on the cold, damp dungeon floor looking into the lifeless eyes of his mother, her half-eaten heart still in his hand.