Chapter 31 : Chapter 31: Draco's Christmas
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Draco Malfoy did not go up to the Entrance Hall to see his fellow Slytherins off for the holidays. He pointedly ignored Pansy Parkinson as she attempted to wave him over before she left the Slytherin Common Room, and he did not speak to Crabbe and Goyle as they lugged their trunks out of the dormitory.
Draco had been ready to leave. His trunk had been packed with the robes and the schoolbooks he would need over the holidays, and the gifts he had ordered via Owl Post for his mother and his father were wrapped neatly and stowed safely at the bottom where they would not be broken or seen. He had been looking forward to leaving the castle. Proud as he was of the black mark on his left forearm, the clandestine meetings in the dark dungeon chamber, the communications with the stupid giant in the Forbidden Forest and the constant feeling that he was being watched were growing more than a bit wearing. Draco felt that he deserved a break from all of it, and when his family owl had arrived only minutes before he was supposed to depart for the Hogwarts Express, he had been most displeased.
I wish you to remain at school over the Christmas holidays. Your gifts will be sent along, and you will receive them on Christmas Day. Do let me know if there is anything else you require for your stay.
The short note lacked any warmth and had not been accompanied by the parcel of sweets that Draco had become accustomed to over his nearly six years at school. Because of this, he correctly surmised that his mother had written the note at his father's instruction and was none too happy that she would not see her son over the holidays.
Knowing also that his father had most likely demanded that he remain at Hogwarts because Lord Voldemort had directed him to do so, Draco had wisely decided not to argue the point. Instead, he had closed his trunk and gone down to the Slytherin Common Room, where he sat pretending to read his Potions text as though this had been planned all along.
The only other Slytherin remaining at the school over the holidays, a small, dark-haired first-year whose name Draco could not remember, took just one glance at the intimidating sixth-year sitting in the leather armchair and scurried off to his own dormitory, not daring to speak.
After the younger student had gone, Draco looked around, wondering what to do with himself. He had received no instructions regarding how he was to spend his time on his own at the school, and he was not ready to begin his holiday revision. He returned to his dormitory and flopped onto his bed, any attempts at dignity abandoned since there was no one there to see him.
Draco had not imagined how lonely his life would be as the only student who was a Death Eater at Hogwarts. He could not tell his fellow Slytherins of his status even though most of them would have turned green with envy if they knew, and he could not talk openly with Professor Snape because the Order of the Phoenix still believed him to be loyal to their side. All in all, Draco's existence had become so solitary that the absence of the other students affected him very little…at least, this was what he told himself as he stared at the cold stone ceiling of his dungeon room.
After a few moments of reflection, he decided that the holidays would not be so bad. After all, how could he be expected to spy on Harry Potter when Potter had decided to spend the holidays away from school? If the only thing he was required to do was to take an occasional gift to the giant in the forest, Draco supposed the holidays might not be so bad after all. He could lie-in every morning if he wished, and that was rarely allowed at Malfoy Manor and never when his father was at home. He would have fewer reports to give in the cold dungeon chamber, and he would not have the constant worry that someone was looking over his shoulder and reporting his every move to Lord Voldemort.
Just as Draco had come to the conclusion that he would actually enjoy spending the holiday at school, an unfamiliar black owl arrived through the small air shaft that led into the dormitory. Draco groaned, sure that this owl could not be carrying good news. His suspicions grew as he realized that this message had been written to only be visible to someone with the Dark Lord’s mark; the way the ink faded when he transferred the letter to his right hand confirmed this.
By now you have no doubt received my notice that you are to remain at Hogwarts over the holiday break. I did not wish the other students to see your instructions so I sent this letter separately.
I have been informed that you have been instructed on the entrance into a secure location in Hogsmeade. You are to obtain permission from the Headmaster to be in Hogsmeade at that location on the 23rd of December at 2:00. I wish to see you then, and it is at this time that you will receive your Christmas presents and celebrate the holiday with the family.
Until then, carry on with your current assignment and revise for your classes.
Draco balled the parchment in his fist. He was not fooled by the letter, which had obviously been written in a manner that would not seem suspicious if it fell into the wrong hands. Even with the added security of charmed ink, everyone was being extra careful about all communications these days.
He uncrumpled the parchment and read it over again to make sure he had gleaned all the necessary information from it. If this communication was, as he suspected, truly from his father and Lord Voldemort, he could not afford to miss even one part of it.
It was clear enough that he was to be in Hogsmeade on December twenty-third at two o’clock and that he was to secure permission to be there rather than attempting to sneak off. The only thing he was not as clear about was the location at which he was supposed to meet his father. Draco read that line of the letter several times. What secure location had he been instructed on entering? He had only been to Hogsmeade once this school year, and he had received no special instructions on that day.
Draco thought for a moment about what he had done that day. He remembered clearly that he had been angry because he had been told that he must spend the day under his invisibility cloak tracking Potter rather than enjoying himself. He had followed Potter and his pathetic little girlfriend around town all morning, and then to the Three Broomsticks for lunch, and then…
He felt the rage begin to rise within his chest as he realized what ‘secure location' his mother had been referring to. She was referring to the house in which Potter had told his pitiful friends about the so-called prophecy. Draco's rage, for once, had nothing to do with Potter, but with the fact that his mother somehow knew about the Shrieking Shack.
He had told no one what he had found out about the Shrieking Shack, or even that he had been there. After he had figured out that Lord Voldemort already knew about the prophecy, he was not about to spread Potter's fame by telling anyone else of it. No one had seen him; he had remained under his cloak the entire day. The only thing that made sense was that he had been followed by someone who had the means to track his movements even while he was under the cloak.
The only question was who had done it. Draco's head swam with possibilities, and he was certain that if he could find the identity of the person who had followed him that day at Hogsmeade, he would know the identity of the person who had been telling his father and Lord Voldemort of all his movements since the start of school.
It was absurdly simple for Draco to secure permission from Headmaster Dumbledore to spend the day of the twenty-third in Hogsmeade. The Headmaster had not only agreed, but had decided to allow the dozen or so other students to spend the day in the Wizarding village as well, the only condition being that they would be accompanied by Professors Snape and McGonagall and the Headmaster himself.
Draco was not surprised or alarmed by this information. He had never supposed that he would be allowed to go to Hogsmeade completely unaccompanied, and with the rest of the students going it would be easy enough for him to disappear under his invisibility cloak once the students had been given leave to explore the village.
Draco had several hours to wander the village innocently, buying himself an early Christmas present of candy from Honeyduke's. As he walked briskly down the main road, turning his nose up at Zonko's joke shop where rest of the students staying at Hogwarts were happily plotting their next pranks, he thought about what his father would want to speak to him about that was so important that they had to set up this clandestine meeting. Draco rather hoped he would learn the reason behind his father's insistence that he stay at school over the holidays because so far, besides one gift-bearing visit to the giant, he had been asked to do nothing that justified it.
Draco went for lunch in the Three Broomsticks around noon. The small pub was packed with witches and wizards all up to the village for last-minute holiday shopping, and the Hogwarts professors and students were there as well. Draco sat a small table by himself, ordered a Butterbeer and a plate of roast chicken for his lunch, and pretended to occupy himself with his purchases. After he had eaten, he left the shop quickly and proceeded back up the main road and around a corner to the Hog's Head. He went inside, ordered a Butterbeer from the surly bartender so as not to appear suspicious, and after drinking it went back to the dirty bathrooms at the back of the pub and threw his invisibility cloak over himself.
He had originally intended to do this at the Three Broomsticks, but he hadn't because he had been certain that one of the professors or Madam Rosemerta, who seemed to know everything about everyone, would notice. Here at the Hog's Head, he reasoned that no one would notice that he had gone, or if they had, they wouldn't have anyone of interest to tell. He didn't even bother to wait until someone opened the door, but in his haste, proceeded through it, safely under his invisibility cloak, confident that even if someone wondered why the door had opened of its own accord, they would assume that it was the wind. The only people at the Hog's Head are the scum of the Wizarding world, Draco thought contemptuously as he headed past the stile at the end of the road and towards the Shrieking Shack, now being careful to erase his own footprints from the snow as he moved. Werewolves and Mudbloods and other ne'er-do-wells who haven't the slightest idea how things in the world are going.
Draco reached the back entrance to the shack at five minutes before two o'clock and quickly said the password to unlock the house. Once he was inside, he removed his invisibility cloak, hung it sloppily over a dusty kitchen chair, and went in search of his father. He heard voices coming from the front end of the house, and he cautiously moved forward. He had been expecting no one but his father and possibly his mother, but he heard at least two male voices coming from what seemed to be an old drawing room. His blood ran cold as he heard the voice he had learned to fear.
"Young Mr. Malfoy," sneered Lord Voldemort as Draco entered the drawing room, his head respectfully down, meeting neither the eyes of the evil wizard nor the eyes of his father, who was standing as always on Voldemort's right.
"My Lord," Draco answered, trying hard to keep the nervousness from his voice. "Is it safe for you to be here, so close to Hogwarts?" he asked boldly, hoping that the evil wizard would find it favorable that he was worried about his well-being.
"How good of you to inquire, young Malfoy," Voldemort replied in his horrible, high-pitched voice. "I assure you, we are quite well-protected…or, I should say, I am quite well-protected." His voice became, if it were possible, even colder. "You, on the other hand, have much to answer for. Tell me, Malfoy, what has your assignment been since you have joined my ranks?"
"To report on Harry Potter, My Lord," Draco said, no longer able to hide the fear in his voice.
"Correct," Voldemort said smoothly. "And since you have begun your assignment, have you brought me any news of import?"
"I –” Draco began.
"Choose your words carefully, Draco," Lucius said coldly, "and remember that Lord Voldemort knows all."
"Yes, young Malfoy, Lord Voldemort knows," said the tall, sneering man, rising from his seat to tower over the blonde boy.
"I've done what you asked, My Lord!" Draco said quickly, panic laced heavily in each of his words.
"Have you?" Voldemort asked quietly. "Have you told me everything you know?"
"Yes, my Lord! I am unable to follow Potter into Dumbledore's office; I don't know what they do in there!" Draco was growing desperate. He could hear the malice in the dark wizard's voice, and he could think of nothing but that he was supposed to have reported on exactly what Potter did while under the Headmaster's tutelage.
"Of course not," Voldemort almost purred. "The headmaster’s office is too well-protected, and I did demand that you remain undetected."
"Yes," Draco answered feebly.
"However," Voldemort continued, "it was brought to my attention some time ago that you had managed to follow Potter to this very location, and that you had become aware of some information which you had not before possessed."
"M- My Lord," Draco stammered, all pretense of courage gone, "I th-thought you already knew…"
"You thought?" Voldemort asked, his voice laced with malevolence. "You did not know because no one told you. You took it upon yourself to keep vital information from me simply because you thought I might already know…you thought."
He advanced on the cowering teen, his face set and hard with cruelty and vicious intent. "It is time you learned, young Death Eater, what happens to those who displease me." He raised his wand. "Crucio!"
This time was not like the time Voldemort had initiated Draco into his ranks. This time, he did not release the young man from the curse. He watched, his face impassive, as Draco fell onto the dusty carpet of the Shrieking Shack, writhing and screaming in pain.
When the curse was finally lifted, Draco lay on the floor, breathing heavily, tears streaming down his flushed face.
"Get up, Draco," his father ordered. "Face your lord and master with the strength of a man."
With great difficulty, Draco rose from the floor and stood in front of Voldemort, his legs shaking with the effort and his breathing still labored.
"Now, young Malfoy, do you understand the amount of emphasis I wish you to place on your assignment?" Voldemort asked menacingly.
"Yes, my Lord," Draco answered with as much strength as he could muster as he looked into the evil, red eyes of the one who he had pledged to serve.
"You will follow Potter. You will observe him. You will listen to his conversations with his friends, and you will report back to me everything you learn, without exception. I will tolerate no more mistakes, young Malfoy."
"Yes, my Lord," Draco repeated, his voice growing stronger as the effects of the curse wore off.
"As for your other assignment," Lucius said in the same cold, formal voice he had been using the entire afternoon. "We expect to be moving forward soon, is that correct, my Lord?"
"Indeed, it seems as though our youngest member's duties grow more vital by the day," Voldemort said, eying Draco appraisingly.
"You must redouble your efforts with the giant," Lucius ordered. "Behind you, you will find a box containing five gifts, which will be given to the giant over the remainder of the holiday when you are less likely to be detected, and you will continue doing so until all has been prepared to our Lord's satisfaction."
"Yes, Father," Draco answered, some of the Malfoy pride slipping back into his voice as he thought of the weight of the responsibility he had been given. After bowing to Voldemort, he turned toward the door.
"Wait," Voldemort ordered.
Draco turned back towards his father and his master, his pointed face set in a look of puzzlement.
"I believe one more reminder of my expectations is in order," the Dark Lord sneered as he raised his wand. Before Draco even had time to process what was about to happen, Voldemort raised his wand and cried, "Crucio!"
Just outside the Shack, Albus Dumbledore bowed his head in sadness as he listened to the shrieks of pain coming from the bright student he had watched so carefully since Voldemort's return. There was no questioning the situation any further. Draco Malfoy was a Death Eater.
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