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Marked by CambAngst

Format: Novella
Chapters: 5
Word Count: 20,282

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong Language, Strong Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme, Contains Spoilers

Genres: Drama, Horror/Dark, Angst
Characters: Moody, Tonks, Bellatrix, Lucius, Narcissa, Voldemort, Draco, Pansy

First Published: 08/05/2012
Last Chapter: 09/21/2012
Last Updated: 08/16/2013

I will succeed where my father failed.

I don't have any choice.

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Smokin' new banner by RoxiMalfoy @ TDA

Chapter 1: It All Comes Crashing Down
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That which you recognize from the books belongs to the inimitable JK Rowling.

Draco Malfoy listlessly perused the letter from his mother, sliding his finger down the length of the expensive parchment stationery. Aside from her personal entreaties to mind his appearance and excel at his lessons, there was little in her message that he hadn’t already read in the society pages of the Daily Prophet. Or rather Pansy read them to him while he lounged around the common room with his head in her lap. He could already see himself falling into some of the same habits as his father, especially when it came to letting the women in his life deal with nagging social matters. The old man had done well for himself, Draco reasoned, so he might as well follow the tried and true approach.

The letter was a welcome diversion after a long and unpleasant day. Professor Umbridge had ordered Draco and the other members of the Inquisitorial Squad to capture Potter and his band of collaborators when they broke into her office. That was all well and good, but then Granger started blubbering about some weapon that they were supposed to be delivering to the school’s disgraced former Headmaster. Naturally, Umbridge decided to seize all of the glory for herself, and sashayed out of the office with Potter and the filthy little mudblood held at wand-point. Draco was already planning to speak to his father about making sure that he got at least some credit for whatever Umbridge discovered.

That left Draco and his fellow Slytherins burdened with the chore of guarding the others. Everything was going fine until that idiot Warrington allowed Weaselbee to slip free of his grasp. From there, all hell broke loose. Draco had been about to attempt the Cruciatus Curse to restore order when Weasley’s little sister managed to pry Crabbe’s wand out of his hand. She cast some sort of hex at him and the next thing Draco knew, he was running toward the dungeons with a swarm of angry bats attacking his head. He didn’t even bother to see how the rest of his mates were faring, he simply kept running until the bats finally disappeared.

Draco remained in a foul mood until the post owl dropped the neatly addressed letter onto the table in front of him. To the rest of the world, its contents were probably uninteresting to the point of banality. He carefully eyed the rest of the room, making sure that at least one or two other people saw him reading it. Then, just to be certain, he walked over to Daphne Greengrass and pointed out something his mother had written about one of her cousins traveling to Bulgaria to court a witch from an old and wealthy family of dragon breeders. When he was satisfied that he had made a sufficient show of it, he retreated to the sanctuary of his dormitory.

The room was empty, sparing him the need to kick his roommates out. Crabbe and Goyle had been assigned additional practice drills by Montague after their sad showing during Slytherin’s recent Quidditch match. Nott was probably snogging Millicent Bulstrode somewhere in the dungeons to cheer her up after Loony Lovegood turned her hair purple. Draco shuddered slightly. He could only imagine how those two got together. That left Zabini, whose whereabouts were usually a mystery since he changed girlfriends more often than Crabbe and Goyle changed their socks. If he wasn’t chasing some slag around the castle, he was probably being chased by one who wanted to hex him.

Draco turned his mother’s letter over and mumbled to himself as he tapped the four corners of the parchment with his wand. The hand-written words that emerged were what he really wanted to read. Since the Dark Lord had returned from his long absence, it was an exciting time to be part of the Malfoy family. Nearly every letter from his mother also contained a hidden message from his father, giving him tantalizing hints of the great strides the Death Eaters were making. Draco relished each and every one. His father’s stories conjured images of a boundless future, one where there would be no need to tolerate the riffraff that filled the corridors outside of the Slytherin common room.

Even by his father’s grandiose standards, the words that appeared on this letter were extraordinary. Draco read them again, just to be sure that he hadn’t missed anything. On this very evening, the Dark Lord had instructed his followers to infiltrate the Department of Mysteries at the Ministry. There, he assured them that Harry Potter would unwittingly assist them in locating something very important to his plans for taking over the magical world and ridding it of blood traitors and mudbloods.

Draco chuckled sardonically to himself. Whatever Potter and his friends had been up to, it was probably all part of the Dark Lord’s plan. He suddenly felt fortunate that Umbridge decided to leave him behind when she went to locate this “weapon” that Granger had been prattling on about. She was going to wind up looking like a fool. The last line of his father’s letter put a wicked smile on Draco’s thin face. If we are very lucky, perhaps your wretched little schoolmate won’t be returning at all.

Draco read the letter one last time and then tossed it into the fireplace. As he watched the parchment burn, his thoughts were filled with the endless possibilities of life at Hogwarts without Harry Potter. Dumbledore was already gone and his father assured him that the blathering old fossil would not be returning. Granger, Weasley and the rest of their meddlesome friends would either learn their place or they would be dealt with as well. He absentmindedly polished the Inquisitorial Squad badge adorning his chest with the sleeve of his shirt. It seemed that things couldn’t be looking any better for him.

Once the letter was reduced to ashes, he strutted back into the common room with his chest out and his chin held high. At the moment, it felt like his own, personal domain. All of his pure blooded housemates would be lining up to thank him when word of his father’s exploits reached the school. Looking around, he found Pansy sitting near the fire, copying Tracey Davis’s Charms essay. She wrinkled her already abbreviated nose as she seemed to be debating which words to change in a particularly long sentence on Sticking Charms. Draco sat down beside her and placed one arm around her shoulder while his other hand came to rest on her thigh.

“You’re working awfully hard, lovely,” he drawled, staring into her dark brown eyes. “It’s not befitting for a witch of your beauty, breeding and excellent taste in men.” Pansy giggled at his advances, sliding closer to him and pointedly doing nothing about the way he was slowly massaging the inside of her thigh. “Davis,” Draco called, searching out the mousy-looking girl where she sat in a quiet corner of the room, writing a Potions essay. She looked up, surprised that Draco would even think to speak her name. “Be a dear and finish this for Pansy,” he said, gesturing toward the parchment, quill and ink pot in front of his girlfriend. “Be sure you do a good job. We wouldn’t want either of you to get in trouble with old Flit-wit, would we?”

He didn’t even bother to wait for her response as he stood up and pulled Pansy to her feet. She giggled furiously as he turned with a flourish and began to stride toward the boys’ dormitories. The common room door opened and Draco noticed Crabbe and Goyle enter, soaked and filthy from their Quidditch drills. Goyle managed to give him a beseeching look before he casually turned his back on them. “I need the room tonight,” he called out over his shoulder. “Don’t wait up.”

Draco entered his dorm room and lifted Pansy onto his shoulder before unceremoniously dumping her onto his four-poster bed. Her feet flew into the air and she burst into another fit of giggles. Then Draco flicked his wand at the door, locking it securely. Pansy had never once tried to stop his advances or even slow them down, so he didn’t feel especially nervous as he laid down beside her. She pressed her lips against his while his hands roved all over her body. His father’s letter had put him in a mood to celebrate and he was not feeling shy or reserved.

After a few minutes of passionate snogging, Draco pushed her away, feeling her teeth reluctantly relinquish their grip on his lower lip. Her face was flushed and she let out a low groan, looking slightly hurt. He smiled at her and wagged his finger, softly chastising Pansy for her impatience. Then he reached over the side of his bed into his school trunk and pulled out something made of glass and wrapped in a pair of trousers. She smiled quizzically at him as he slowly unwrapped it, revealing a bottle of very expensive firewhiskey he had purloined from his father’s billiard parlor.

“What’s the occasion?” she asked, retrieving a pair of highball glasses from beside Draco’s bed and wiping them quickly with the hem of her blouse.

“I can’t tell you yet,” he answered, drawing another mocking frown. “But suffice it to say that by this time tomorrow, you’ll be dating the most eligible bachelor in the wizarding world.”

He poured two glasses of the shimmering, brown liquid and set the bottle aside. Then he took his glass and sipped it slowly while Pansy downed hers in two painful-looking gulps. Her breath caught in her throat as she shivered and suppressed a cough. She set her glass aside and when she turned back to face him, the look of concern on her face was no longer in jest.

“It sounds like you’re going to be a very popular wizard,” she pouted. “Do I need to be worried about us?”

Draco smiled adoringly at her, then took another sip of his drink and set the glass aside. He reached over and slipped his hand under the skirt of her school uniform, sliding it up the back of her thigh until his fingertips came to rest just below her bum.

“I’m sure that my parents will receive a lot of owls from families trying to introduce their daughters to me. But you...” he pulled himself closer to her as he let his hand wander, “you have a certain advantage of imcumbency, my darling. If you play your cards right, I’m sure you’ll come out on top in the end.”

Pansy’s expression gradually changed from insecure to infatuated as the alcohol warmed her veins and Draco’s meandering hand found its way into ever more sensitive places. “I suppose I shouldn’t let you get bored with me then, should I?” she purred.

“That would be inadvisable,” Draco crooned, grinning lustily at her. Her eyes betrayed a hint of discomfort, so he quickly added, “Not that I can ever see myself getting bored with you. You’re so... creative.”

Pansy gave him a crooked smile before she grabbed his head and locked onto his lips once again. Draco was beginning to feel impatient. He started trying to undo the dainty buttons on her blouse, but the bloody things seemed to be designed for somebody with elf-sized fingers. He abandoned subtlety and tried to simply pull her top off over her head, but the garment proved too tight. He was about to grab his wand and use a cutting hex when he suddenly had a better idea. He pushed her face away from his, staring into her slightly unfocused brown eyes.

“Stand over here, next to the bed,” he said in a throaty whisper. “I want to watch you undress.”

Pansy grinned wickedly at him, then hopped off the bed and did her best to disrobe as seductively as she could. It was all Draco could do not to laugh as he watched her try to act sultry in spite of her intoxication. She stumbled and nearly fell while unzipping her expensive high-heeled boots, and the clasp of her bra seemed to be nearly as challenging to her as it would have been for him. Pansy simply couldn’t handle alcohol, and it was one of the things that Draco liked most about her. Usually it only took two drinks to wash all of her inhibitions away.

While she struggled to get her stockings off, Draco suddenly began to wonder how his parents really would handle the process of finding a wife for him. In proper pureblood society, such things were never left to chance. His mother would insist on carefully studying each young lady who vied for his attention, ferreting out any flaws and determining their suitability to bear the children who represented the future of both the House of Malfoy and the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. But the final word would come from his father, who would decide which pairing would create the greatest prestige and political advantage. The negotiations might take months.

Truthfully, the Parkinsons were not in the same league as his family. Their fortune was smaller, their estate was newer and less opulent and their family tree could be traced back nine generations at most. By comparison, Draco had been taught from a very young age which of his ancestors shared the Slytherin common room with Merlin, himself. It wasn’t that the Parkinsons were bad people. Pansy’s father was quite adamant about finding her a proper, pureblood husband and he planned to send her abroad if she had been sorted into any other house. But there was simply nothing in it for his family if he married her. No ancient bloodlines would be united and her inheritance would represent only a modest addition to his own.

Draco was so lost in thought that Pansy surprised him when she hopped onto the bed and pulled his face into the middle of her chest. She slowly slid lower, pressing herself against him until her mouth finally came to rest against his. He felt his body getting uncomfortably warm as the firewhiskey mixed with lust. “You’re way overdressed,” Pansy whispered into his ear before nipping gently at his earlobe.

“Undress me,” he hissed back, feeling her thigh pressing uncomfortably against his nether regions.

“Am I going to have to do all the work tonight?” she asked seductively, leaving a trail of small, sharp kisses down the side of his face.

“I’m saving my strength,” he replied. “I have some surprises in store for you.”

“Ooh,” she moaned, inhaling sharply. Pansy continued to slide down his body until she was perched on the foot of his bed, between his feet. As she pulled his shoes off, a different realization hit Draco. There was no guarantee that the bride his parents ultimately selected would be anywhere near as eager to please him as Pansy. Setting aside how nauseating it was to think about his mother while Pansy slowly undid his belt, he realized that there was no way in hell that she would be caught dead doing the sort of things that Pansy seemed to relish doing for him. Narcissa Malfoy insisted that her husband kiss her only on the cheek so as not to smear her lipstick. At the moment, Pansy was probably getting her lipstick all over his boxer shorts while she tugged at them with her teeth.

Pansy planted herself on top of his hips while she unbuttoned his shirt, causing Draco to let out a feral-sounding gasp. As he watched her chest sway inches above his face, he arrived at a decision. Even if his parents chose a different witch for him to marry, he was going to keep Pansy as his mistress, propriety be damned. If the rumors were to be believed, his father had at least one mistress, possibly several. Once they helped the Dark Lord take control, his family was going to be so wealthy and powerful that he could have whatever he wanted.

Draco reached up and seized Pansy by the back of her neck, pulling her mouth toward his. She initially gasped in surprise at his rough treatment, but quickly warmed to it and pressed her face urgently against his. He held her tightly, mashing her little pug nose against his cheek while they snogged. With a sudden lurch, he tried to flip the two of them over so that he was on top of her. After scrambling a bit to avoid falling off of the side of the bed, he managed to maneuver the two of them into a comfortable position. He could hear her moaning as he kissed her neck, and he reveled in the combined intoxication of firewhiskey, arousal and power.

Perhaps he was deluding himself about being able to keep her as a plaything indefinitely. Perhaps his mother would never allow it. It didn’t matter. This night was his, and he was not going to deny himself a thing. He swiped his wand from beside the bed and extinguished the lamps with a single flick. Then he turned his attention back to Pansy and proceeded to indulge himself in every way that came to mind.

Hours later, Draco and Pansy were jarred out of their satiated slumber by the sound of the dormitory door slamming against the wall. The lamps in the room suddenly blazed to life and Professor Snape stood at the door. Pansy yelped and pulled Draco’s blanket up to cover herself. Snape almost seemed to fly across the room as he covered the space separating them in a few long strides.

“Get. Out. Now.” he snarled through clenched teeth, drawing out the last word in a forbidding tone of voice. Pansy gathered the blanket around herself and sprinted out of the room. Snape banished the pile of her clothes from the floor into the corridor and slammed the door with a flick of his wand.

Draco’s mind was reeling. The fact that the Potions teacher had not immediately given them both detention was his first hint that something was very, very wrong. It wasn’t like Snape to ignore such a severe violation of the rules, even when it occurred in his own house. He fixed Draco with an angry stare, then spoke very slowly and carefully.

“Listen closely, for I shall not repeat a word of this. Your father’s mission to the Department of Mysteries has failed.” Draco immediately began to formulate a denial in his mind, just in case Snape accused him of some involvement, but the professor seemed to already know what he was thinking. “You know exactly what I’m talking about, Mr. Malfoy, so save your lies for someone who cares. When you return home at the end of the term, life as you know it will cease to exist. Your father will be locked away in Azkaban. Your home will be crawling with Aurors. Everything you say and everything you do will be scrutinized for the slightest hint of a connection to the Dark Lord and if they find one, real or imagined, you will join your father in prison. Do you understand?”

Draco nodded slowly. Why Snape was sharing any of this with him was beyond his comprehension. His mind was spinning faster than he ever imagined possible. Everything he had spent the last few hours imagining, his entire life, was swirling down the drain before his eyes.

“You have two hours before first light,” Snape continued. “I suggest you use that time to rid your belongings of anything that might be construed to suggest your involvement in any of this. Do not use your own wand to cast the spells. That is the first thing they’ll check.”

Snape turned and made his way back to the door. When he opened it, Draco could see Goyle and Crabbe peeking into the room, looking terrified. “And Mr. Malfoy,” Snape added menacingly, “if I ever find that little trollop of yours inside this room again, I promise that you will come to know a new definition of the word regret.” He turned toward Goyle and Crabbe and flicked his wand at them. “Obliviate.” Their eyes went blank and Snape stormed past them, his black robes billowing behind him as the door slammed shut in his wake.

And so it begins! My new project will take Draco Malfoy through some of the darkest days of his young life. As always, thanks are due to my brilliant beta reader, sophie_hatter. Please take a moment to let me know what you think! The comment box is at your service!

Chapter 2: Kick Me
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As always, the characters, places and events you recognize from the books belong to JK Rowling.

Snape’s late night visit was only the beginning of Draco’s abrupt change in fortunes. When the sun rose the next morning, Potter and his friends swept back into Hogwarts Castle like conquering heroes. Dumbledore also returned and apparently the Minister had forgiven him for all of his treasonous activities. Even more infuriating, the batty old headmaster refused to simply leave Umbridge to the fate she deserved. Instead he wandered off into the forest like some tree-hugging hippie, found the centaurs and bargained with the subhuman beasts for her life.

By the time Draco and his housemates returned from their morning lessons, the Aurors had visited and turned out the contents of their dormitory. Because he had carefully followed Snape’s instructions, they found nothing save for a small quantity of an illicit love potion hidden under Nott’s bed. It seemed that he had been using it to win Millicent’s affections, which came as unwelcome news to her. Draco was able to put his belongings right again with relative ease. The cruelest blow didn’t come until later that evening.

Throughout dinner, most of his housemates eyed him nervously, speaking as little as possible. Word of his father’s imprisonment spread quickly. Some of them avoided him simply because they feared being seen with him. A few whose families had suffered slights at the whim of his parents seized upon the opportunity to gloat. By the time dessert was served, Draco was feeling desperate for friendly companionship. As they made their way out of the Great Hall, he walked up behind Pansy and slipped his hand into hers. He knew he couldn’t take the risk of sneaking off to some hidden corner of the castle with her, but at the moment the simple pleasure of her company seemed like a blissful reprieve.

Much to his chagrin, she pulled her hand away. “What’s wrong, dearest?” he whispered, letting the hurt permeate his voice. “I hope you don’t blame me for what happened last night?”

Pansy kept her voice low and she did not look at him. “Of course not, Draco.” She picked a spot just off of the main corridor and turned to face him. It was private enough to have a conversation, but anyone passing by could easily see that she stood a full arm’s length apart from him. “I need to tell you something. After what happened in the Ministry, father owled me and told me to break off our relationship. You know it isn’t what I want, Draco, but I think we need some time apart. At least until things quiet down.”

Draco felt as though he'd been punched in the chest. His last bulwark against utter despair was being torn away. "Pansy, don’t do this," he managed to say in a shaky voice. "Not right now. This has been the worst day of my life. I know we can’t take a chance of Snape catching us again, and I’m not asking you for a shag. Just stay with me. Talk to me." His voice dropped to a whisper. “Please.”

She regarded him with the sort of rehearsed sympathy that made him think of his mother attending a funeral for some distant relative. “Draco, can you honestly say that you would still date me if it was my family that had fallen into disgrace and your father was demanding that you stop seeing me?”

Draco tried to summon a convincing lie. Of course he would stand by her side. He would never abandon her just because her father had the guts to take a stand on principle. After all, he loved her. In his shaky mental state, he simply couldn’t get it out in time. Pansy smiled weakly at him and continued.

"You of all people understand my predicament, Draco. I still love you. Really, I do. But I can't disobey him. It isn't proper. If your family is able to sort out its troubles and we can start over again someday, I’d like that very much." She stood on the tips of her toes and gave him a chaste peck on the cheek. He thought that he could see just a hint of tears in her eyes. “See you around, Draco.” Then she turned and walked away.

The remainder of the term passed in a hazy blur. With O.W.L.s over, lessons lacked any sort of urgency. Crabbe and Goyle eventually returned to their customary places by his side; they simply didn’t know what else to do. Their company provided him little comfort, however. Snape’s warning about the life he could expect to find at home weighed heavily on him as the last days of the term slipped away. He could only imagine the sorts of dark artifacts that had been placed in his father’s care, and it seemed well nigh impossible that any of them would have been removed before the Ministry arrived. The sick feeling in his stomach grew worse with each passing day. His father wasn’t going to be leaving Azkaban any time soon, if ever.

Draco tried to deal with his fears the only way he knew how, by twisting them into hatred and directing it toward Harry Potter and all of his friends. The smug, superior looks they gave him whenever their paths crossed drove him to distraction. The little Weasley slapper was especially irritating. Whenever she caught him glaring at her, she would flutter her hands around her head like bats and squeal in mock terror. To make matters worse, every time he was nearly ready to hex one of them, a teacher seemed to appear out of nowhere. It was as though they were all watching him, waiting for him to place one toe out of line.

By the time he boarded the Hogwarts Express for the journey back to London, he felt as though he never wanted to set foot in Scotland again. He made up his mind to speak to his mother about transferring to another school. Even though father’s old friend Karkaroff was no longer the head of Durmstrang, the school still had a reputation for valuing status and breeding. The Dark Arts were taught there, if not exactly celebrated. But his thoughts of starting over in the bitter cold of Scandinavia were quickly swept aside when Draco noticed Harry Potter walk past their compartment, alone.

“On your feet, lads,” he hissed to Crabbe and Goyle, barely able to contain his rage. Draco slid the compartment door open quietly and poked his head out, carefully checking for adults. When the coast was clear, they slipped out into the aisle and started to make their way toward the back of the train. He saw Potter emerge from the loo and began to stride toward him. Both boys had their wands out well before they were standing nose to nose in the middle of the train.

“I told you that you were going to pay for what you did to my father,” Draco snarled. He gestured towards Potter’s throat with his wand. “There aren’t any teachers around to save you this time.”

Potter didn’t seem frightened, in spite of Crabbe and Goyle looming over his shoulders. “Malfoy, I’ve dealt with far worse than the likes of you lately. Get out of my way before you get hurt.”

Stupefy!” Draco fired a stunner, but Potter had already fallen into a defensive stance and blocked it. Crabbe and Goyle added the few jinxes they had been able to master, but Potter seemed to be up to the challenge, turning all of their spells away with shield charms. As the hexes and jinxes cracked off of Potter’s defenses, Draco never heard the sound of the door to the adjacent compartment sliding open.

Expelliarmus.” Draco’s wand was torn from his hand. He spun around in alarm and found Susan Bones and Ernie Macmillan pointing their wands at him. Faster than he could run away, the entire compartment full of Fifth Year Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs spilled out into the aisle, pelting the three Slytherin boys with a wide variety of hexes and jinxes. Draco felt his skin erupt with oozing boils as his legs collapsed beneath him and the world went dark. When the assault finally ceased, their taunting laughter sounded as though his head was underwater. He felt himself being hoisted into the air and unceremoniously deposited in the compartment’s luggage rack, where he spent the remainder of the journey trying to move his arms.

It took his mother nearly half an hour to remove the worst of the spells he had been hit with after the train finally pulled into King’s Cross Station. As she helped him limp away from Platform Nine and Three Quarters, being careful not to sully her outfit with any of the foul-smelling slime that clung to his clothes, he saw Potter walking away with a trio of muggles who appeared utterly terrified of him. It took every last bit of his self-control not to fling a curse at their backs.

“Hello, Narcissa. Draco.” The low, gravelly voice startled him and he spun around to face its source. Draco could tell from the way that his mother stiffened and took a sharp breath that she had been taken by surprise, as well. Standing behind them was the Auror, Moody, along with a young woman whose bright pink hair made his aching head feel even worse.

His mother quickly regained her composure and responded in her customary icy tone. “Alastor. Nymphadora.” She spoke the latter name with a particular disdain, and Draco immediately realized who the young woman was.

“Hello, Aunt Cissy,” the woman with the jarring pink hair responded in a sickly sweet voice. He felt his mother’s arm tense up at the mention of their familial relationship. If the young woman was bothered in the slightest, she didn’t show it. “And dear cousin Draco. Having a rough day, are we?”

“Mother, do we really have to associate with these people?” Draco spat, turning away and attempting to pull her along with him. He was tired, sore, depressed and his hair and clothes were matted with slime. There was nothing in the world he wanted less than to deal with his disgraced cousin and the salty old curmudgeon who accompanied her. He was surprised when his mother didn’t budge.

“Actually, you do.” Moody responded curtly as his enchanted eye spun wildly underneath his bowler hat. His cousin gave him a toothy, fake smile that made him want to retch. He started to reach for his wand, but his mother seemed to read his mind and she quickly took his hand in her own.

“May I have a moment with my son, just to help him compose himself?” his mother asked in an exasperated tone. “As you so coarsely put it, he has had a very rough day.”

Moody’s lip twisted into a sneer. Draco was mentally prepared to be hexed again, but the young woman laid her hand on the old Auror’s arm. “Come on, Mad-Eye. Let’s give them a minute.”

“Not a second more!” Moody snarled, turning and stalking away.

Draco opened his mouth to protest, but his mother cut him off, speaking softly and rapidly. “Listen to me, Draco. The Aurors will be following us everywhere we go from now on. It is imperative that you give them no reason to suspect you. Your father’s misdeeds have put us in a very difficult position.”

Draco curled his lip and stared at his mother as though he didn’t recognize her. “Misdeeds? How can you speak of Father like that? He was merely doing what he was ordered to do by-”

That is enough!” his mother snapped, cutting him off in mid-sentence. “We will not speak of this anymore!”

Draco glared at her petulantly, but fell silent. He couldn’t believe what his mother was saying. Was it really so urgent to suck up to these self-important Ministry functionaries that she needed to sully her own husband’s name?

She lowered her voice again, but continued to stare at him angrily. “Mind what you say, Draco. I have no idea what you might have heard about your father’s actions, but that knowledge could ruin your life.” Her voice softened just a bit and she looked quickly to make sure nobody was listening. “I love your father, Draco, and I was fully aware of his... associations before he ever courted me. But the choices he has made have put us both at grave risk. The Aurors aren’t the half of it. Please, keep your wits about you and whatever you do, think before you speak!”

She busied herself with attempting to remove more of the foul-smelling stains from his hair and clothes, but it was mostly for show. His mother didn’t know the first thing about laundry charms. Moody soon made his way back over with Draco’s miserable, half-blood cousin in tow and directed them towards a small waiting area near the ticket counter of the train station.

“If you’d be so kind as to join me,” Moody sneered with mock formality as he held his arm out to Draco’s mother.

“I’m perfectly capable of apparating myself and my son,” she replied, giving him a look that was both frosty and defiant. “I have my license, after all.”

“Not according to Madam Bones, you don’t,” Moody replied, looking very amused at his mother’s discomfort. His tone became brusque. “All of your privileges have been revoked until further notice. Now take my arm or I’ll pick you up and carry you!”

Narcissa was unable to keep the horror off of her face. As unnerving as Draco found it to see his mother lose her composure, the anger swelling inside his chest quickly overwhelmed his unease. The idea that the barbaric wizard glaring at his mother might actually lay his filthy hands on her made Draco’s blood boil. Just as he was about to lash out in defense of her honor, his mother sighed, looked away from Moody and held out her hand. It pleased Draco ever so slightly to see that Moody had to take half a step forward in order to place his arm beneath her outstretched hand. They vanished with a loud pop as soon as his arm made contact.

Draco’s cousin held out her arm to him, but he remained firmly rooted in his place with his arms crossed over his chest. “If you think I’m touching you, you’re mental, you filthy, half-blood freak.”

Before Draco could quite figure out what had happened, he found himself pinned to the concrete wall by an overwhelming force that knocked the breath out of his lungs and generally threatened to crush the life out of him. His cousin’s hair had turned a fiery shade of red and her eyes flashed dangerously inches from his face. He could feel her breath against his chin as she struggled to control her rage.

“I’m gonna tell you something, Draco. About your ‘blood traitor’ Aunt Andromeda. In spite of everything your family did to her and all the nasty, hateful things they said, she used to mark the calendar with your birthdays. Your mother’s. Our whack-job Aunt Bella’s. Even yours. She tries to act as though the way you all turned your backs on her doesn’t bother her, like it didn’t hurt. Well it did. It hurt her more than she’d ever be willing to admit. And every time you open your mouth disrespectfully, I’m gonna share some of that hurt with you.” Her lips twisted into a cruel sneer. “Because I can.”

Draco forced his lungs to pull in a shallow breath against the force that held his body to the wall as her nose hovered inches from his. “Why don’t you just leave us alone? We haven’t done anything wrong.”

She snorted mirthlessly. “You really think we’re here because you and your mother are some big threat? Don’t flatter yourself, Draco. Fudge was the only one dumb enough to believe that you two amount to more than Doxy dung on the bottom of the Dark Lord’s boot. A certain kindly old man has taken an inexplicable interest in your health and well-being. That’s the only reason Mad-Eye and I are here risking our bloody lives. Otherwise, we would have been happy to let the rest of your idiot father’s Death Eater friends deal with you and your mother.”

Draco stared back at her. He couldn’t quite keep the surprise off of his face as the implications of what she was saying sank in. “That’s right, Draco. He was not amused by the fact that Harry walked out of the Ministry alive. He doesn’t like to be disappointed. And at the moment, we are the only things standing between you and him. Consider that carefully before the next time you open your mouth.”

His cousin glared at him for a few moments longer before she released him from the wall. Draco hadn’t even managed to suck down a breath before she grabbed him by the arm and King’s Cross Station spun out of existence.

Thank you to everyone who has read Marked so far and given it such an enthusiastic reception. I'll do my best to keep the story interesting and up to date. Please take a minute to leave me a review and together we can make it even better!

Chapter 3: No Way Out
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As always, that which you recognize from the books belongs to JK Rowling.

“I will not submit to this harassment!” Draco’s eyes flashed with outrage as he crossed his arms over his chest and turned his nose toward the ceiling. “You already know very well what you’re going to find. The only time I’m ever out of your sight is when I go to the toilet and I’m sure you’ve ransacked the plumbing as thoroughly as every other part of this house. This is just another pointless invasion of my privacy!”

The dark-haired young Auror looked completely unfazed and even a bit amused by his tirade. “You know the rules, Malfoy. Besides, we have no idea what you get up to when you’re locked in the loo.” He shot Draco a mocking grin. “I have my suspicions, of course.”

“Filthy barbarian,” Draco snarled, glaring into the flinty eyes that mocked him.

“This is not open to negotiation,” the Auror replied crisply. “If you don’t comply, I’ll be forced to stun you.”

“You wouldn’t dare.”

The Auror slowly closed the gap separating them, drawing himself to his full height. Draco found his upturned chin pressed against the front of the man’s robes. He could feel the tip of the Auror’s wand pressing against the side of his neck.

“My mentor was killed trying to recapture the Death Eaters who broke out of Azkaban. I heard that it was your uncle Rodolphus who cast the curse. Don’t presume to know what I would dare to do to you if you gave me a reason.”

For a long moment, Draco couldn’t tear his eyes away. He had been hated often in his life. Every time Potter or one of the Weasleys laid eyes on him, he could see their resentment and jealousy. This was different. The dark-haired man reminded him of a creature that had been wounded. And wounded creatures were unpredictable. Dangerous. His father had told him as much. He could almost see the Auror’s professional detachment melting away before his eyes, revealing something primal and sinister. Draco felt a chill run down his spine.

He let out an exasperated sigh that didn’t sound at all convincing and took a step back. Turning away and reaching into his robes, he pulled out his wand and held it just out of the Auror’s reach. The man growled under his breath as he took a quick half-step forward and snatched the wand out of Draco’s hand. It made Draco feel ever so slightly better. Two could play at this game of petty torments and indignities.

Prior Incantato.” The Auror waved his wand through a series of circular motions, and the recent spells cast by Draco’s wand emerged in a series of ghostly after-images. They revealed a series of unlocking charms, each one more powerful and complex than the one before it. The Auror gave him a triumphant look. “Using magic outside of school, are we? So tell me, which of our security measures have you been trying to circumvent.”

Draco allowed a surly grimace to cross his face. It truly was a frustrating state of affairs, being a prisoner in his own home. “Oh, alright!” he snapped, throwing his hands into the air. “I was trying to open the liquor cabinet in Father’s study.” The Auror’s expression went from smug satisfaction to sour disappointment. Apparently performing underage magic in a failed attempt to steal alcohol was not on the list of offenses that merited a swift trip to Azkaban.

“You watch yourself, cheeky little git. There’s not an Auror in the department who wouldn’t be thrilled to be the one to land your skinny arse next to your father.”

Draco rolled his eyes. The Auror’s breach of decorum left him feeling as though he had regained the upper hand. “So you keep saying,” he drawled airily, watching the red splotches slowly fade from the other man’s neck. “But I’m still here.”

“So am I,” the Auror snarled.

“Care to make a wager on who’ll be leaving first?” Draco sneered. He enjoyed the way the dark-haired man’s eyes twitched with irritation. “Say, maybe a hundred galleons?” He paused half a beat, just long enough to be sure that the amount had registered. “I can spot you the odd ninety or so until next Friday. I’m sure you’re good for it.”

The Auror glared bitterly at him for a few seconds, then his expression gradually twisted back into a cruel sneer. He stepped forward and clapped his hand on Draco’s shoulder so hard that it almost made his knees buckle. “Enjoy your gold while you can, Malfoy. Because you’re right; sooner or later, we will be leaving. And when we do, he’ll be coming to pay you a visit. Make sure you save at least one of those galleons to pay the ferryman.”

The dark-haired man snorted and returned Draco’s wand, jabbing him in the ribs with the handle. Then he walked away, chuckling mirthlessly to himself. As soon as he rounded the corner and disappeared from view, Draco’s mother seemed to appear from nowhere. She wrapped her slender hands around his elbow and yanked him into a nearby alcove.

“Stop it!” she hissed. Her eyes continued to flicker up and down the hallway.

“Stop what?” he replied softly, knowing full well what she meant. In the two weeks he had been home, he had already fallen into the habit of whispering. He felt annoyed with himself. Why should he be cowering in fear when he had done nothing wrong?

“For heaven’s sake, Draco, use your head!” Her whisper was almost pleading. He was past the point of wondering what had happened to the proud, confident woman he remembered. He barely knew his mother anymore. When she wasn’t fretting over everything he did and every word he said, she seemed to spend all of her time locked away in her private quarters. The dark circles under her eyes had grown so pronounced that no beauty spell could conceal them, and her high cheekbones cast deep shadows on the pallid recesses of her face.

“What does it matter?” he spat. “If they could have tossed us into Azkaban, they would have done it already, mother!” She shot him a forbidding look, but he ignored it. “These Ministry thugs invaded our home and ransacked every inch of it. They made off with who knows how many priceless family treasures. They’re nothing but common thieves and soon enough they’ll be gone!”

His mother’s look suddenly turned so desperate and beseeching that his next round of vitriol caught in his throat. Feelings he couldn’t reconcile gripped his brain, paralyzing him. She looked so broken and weak. Part of him wanted to pull her into a hug, to repay her for every bruise and scrape she had soothed in his life. Another part felt repulsed, unable to believe that the matriarch of his family, a daughter of the ancient House of Black, had been reduced to such a state. A tiny voice in his brain, one that was easily dismissed, wondered how dire their circumstances truly were to upset her so. In the end, he merely stared at her and waited.

“Please, darling, listen to me. We are in mortal danger. You need to stop antagonizing the Aurors. Circumstances may soon require us to rethink who we consider friends and enemies.”

Draco stared at his mother, trying to make sense of what she was telling him. The treatment he had received before leaving school had shaken his confidence in many people he once considered friends, but the obnoxious Auror who had just threatened his life certainly wasn’t going to be getting an invitation to dinner anytime soon. His father had always been the one to broker the family’s political alliances, and now his mother was on her own. An idea gradually settled into his mind, and it was so unpalatable that it made his stomach turn. “Mother,” he said quietly, “what have you done?”

Her voice fell so low that he was reading her lips more than listening. “I have been making... inquiries. Trying to secure our safety. But there’s simply no way to know who has taken which side. Even among the Aurors.”

Draco blinked his eyes several times, making sure that his senses were not deceiving him. The balance between his feelings of pity and scorn was shifting rapidly. She stared back at him, imploring him to understand. “Draco, don’t fight me. Not now. Not when everything is at stake. I’m only doing what I must.”

The venomous bile rose in Draco’s throat. If the woman huddled in front of him had been anyone else, he was certain he would have spat in her face. “Father is rotting in Azkaban for trying to uphold our family’s ideals and now you’re bargaining with our enemies?” He could feel his fists shaking. The look in his mother’s eyes was stricken. All of the color had drained from her face. “How could you?”

“Draco, you must try to understand!” Her voice did not waver, but it was plain that his words stung. “I love your father dearly, but he has left us in a horrible position.”

“You mean worse than being in prison?” Draco retorted, his grey eyes blazing.

His mother took another steadying breath, simply absorbing his barbs. She lowered her voice to the barest whisper. “The Dark Lord does not tolerate failure, Draco. Your father knew this.” Fresh pain filled her dark eyes. She looked away before speaking again. “And now he is going to exact a terrible price.”

“So? We have plenty of gold,” Draco replied. He had no idea how his mother could be so upset. Certainly the Dark Lord had his price, like any other man. Anything was possible if you put enough gold in the correct hands. His father had proven that over and over again.

His mother fixed him with a pitying look, and laid her hand on his arm. In spite of his anger, he couldn’t bring himself to shrug off her touch. “The Dark Lord cares nothing for gold, Draco. Power is his currency. And that power comes from fear. He will not pass on the opportunity to make an example of us.”

Draco struggled to understand her fears, his anger momentarily forgotten. His father had been one of the Dark Lord’s earliest and most loyal supporters. Every letter had made that much clear. His family had provided gold and sanctuary and political influence to the Death Eaters since the time of the Dark Lord’s first rise to power. “If he doesn’t want our gold, what could he possibly take from us? The manor?”

She shook her head slowly. Tears welled up in her eyes and for the first time since his grandmother’s death, Draco watched as they spilled down her pale face. She took both of his hands in hers and pulled him close, pressing her cheek against his. Her voice was barely audible, even from a fraction of an inch away.


Draco awoke from a dead sleep, roused by the sound of loud voices. It took him several moments to shake off the cobwebs and find his wand on the nightstand beside his bed. He lay still, listening carefully. Among the petty, tedious rules the Aurors had imposed was a strict ten o’clock curfew. Lighting his wand, he confirmed what his eyelids were already telling him. The clock on the wall read two thirty in the morning. He supposed that the Aurors were now granting tours of the Manor to curious Ministry officials who wanted to experience the opulence of the Death Eaters’ homes.

Suddenly he heard a loud bang, followed by a piercing cackle. He sat bolt upright in bed, clutching his wand tightly. Several possibilities came to him as he slipped out from under the covers and pulled on his robe. It was possible that the Aurors had gotten drunk and decided to trash the house. Maybe the Manor was being attacked by mudbloods seeking revenge. He even allowed himself to indulge the idea that the Dark Lord had freed his followers from Azkaban and his father was driving the Aurors from their home. It was the most appealing alternative, even if it was also the least likely.

He tentatively laid his fingers on the ornate handle of his chamber door and discovered that the locking charm the Aurors placed upon it each night had been broken. Easing the door open, it dawned on him that his captors were either very occupied or dead. Draco slowly made his way to the grand staircase and crouched behind the balcony wall. The voices were coming closer, and he recognized his mother’s among them.

“You must leave, right away!” she insisted in a pleading tone. “If the Aurors find you here-”

Another woman’s voice cut her off, dismissing her concerns with ear-splitting laughter. “Darling, I assure you, we have given the Aurors plenty to keep them occupied tonight.”

His mother was not persuaded. “But they will be back! And they’ll search every inch of the house. Please, take your friends and go!”

“Cissy, my dear, we haven’t seen one another in fifteen years and you act as though you can’t get me out of your house quickly enough.” The voice became playful, but Draco could hear a menacing edge lurking just below the surface. “Doesn’t my baby sister love me anymore?”

“Of course I love you, Bella,” his mother replied. She sounded sincere, but her voice was no less nervous. “But I have to think of my son. His father is already in prison and the Ministry has all but accused him of being a Death Eater...”

“Accused him of being a Death Eater?” Another howling cackle filled the cavernous room. Draco felt his insides clench. There was something unnatural about the woman’s laughter. Almost inhuman. “How terrible, darling! What sort of child grows up to be a Death Eater?”

For the first time, Draco heard other voices, chuckling quietly alongside the woman’s shrieks of amusement. He began to fear for his mother’s safety. When she spoke again, her voice was quiet and beseeching. “Bella, he’s too young. He doesn’t even know what the words mean.”

“It’s time he was learning, don’t you think?” The other woman’s voice turned serious. “Cissy, our master is furious about Potter’s escape! We have to prove our commitment to the cause, or others will assume our rightful place at his side!”

“But why does it have to be my son? He’s sixteen years old. What could he possibly offer the Dark Lord?”

“Draco is the last male heir to the House of Black. Our family has proudly served the master since the beginning. It’s his birthright! The Dark Lord will help him become the great wizard he is destined to be!”

“But what if he doesn’t want that?” his mother persisted. “What if he simply wants to return to school and complete his education?”

“Why don’t we ask him?” Draco realized that he was pressing his body against the low wall with all of his might as the grating voice called out to him. “Draco, darling, come give your Auntie Bella a kiss. I know you’re hiding up there.”

Draco slowly stood and looked down into the Great Room. He recognized his aunt from a picture that his mother kept in the sitting room. She was grinning madly in the picture, clutching his tiny form to her chest while he sobbed in terror and stretched his arms frantically toward the spot where his mother must have been standing just outside of the camera’s field of view. She had changed a great deal, however. Long streaks of grey ran through her wild, curly, black hair. Her skin was deathly pale and her face was drawn and gaunt. Her emaciated body seemed to struggle to hold up her tight, corseted dress.

As he made his way down the stairs, he couldn’t stop looking at her eyes. They burned with a frightening, intense madness. He found that he couldn’t look away, even though the sight of her blackened, rotting teeth repulsed him. When he finally reached ground level, she swept him from head to toe with an approving gaze. “Oh, Cissy, don’t you think he has Father’s cheekbones? Such a handsome young man! Our master will be so pleased!”

His aunt closed the distance between them and pulled him into a fierce embrace. Draco’s ears turned red as her cleavage pressed against his neck and he could feel the sharp bone of her hip digging into his abdomen. She lowered her face and whispered into his ear. “You are ready, aren’t you, darling?” After a long, awkward moment, it dawned on him that she wasn’t planning to let him go until she got an answer. Possibly not even then if it wasn’t the one she wanted to hear.

“I, um... yes,” he finally replied.

She seized his shoulders and thrust him away from her chest, holding his body at arms length and laughing her terrible, demented laugh again. “Oh, such a wonderful boy! Do you hear that Cissy? Father would be so proud!”

Draco’s eyes flickered rapidly back and forth among the room’s occupants. His mother looked as though she might burst into tears or vomit, possibly both. His aunt beamed at him in a way that made him want to turn and run for his life. The two large, swarthy-looking wizards who accompanied his aunt stared at him with thinly-veiled contempt in their eyes, but they were plainly too frightened of her to act on it. Suddenly his mother spun on her heel and stormed off toward her personal chambers with her face buried in her hands.

Aunt Bella watched her go, then turned back to him. He could see traces of hurt in her eyes, and they made him fear her even more. His father’s warning about wounded animals once again came to mind.

“Well, my darling, back to bed!” she directed, as though she had suddenly realized the time. She leaned forward and gave him a peck on the cheek. It took every last ounce of Draco’s self-control not to pull away. She seemed to notice him staring toward his mother’s chambers and sighed melodramatically. “Don’t worry, my dear. I’ll speak with her. She’ll soon realize what a wonderful choice you’ve made. Now, off with you. A growing boy needs his sleep!”

Draco could hear her speaking to her two companions in shrill whispers as he forced himself to trudge back up the stairs. All he wanted to do was run to his mother’s chambers and crawl under her blankets, the way that he used to during thunderstorms when he was a child. Whether he needed it or not, sleeping felt like it was out of the question.

So she's finally made her appearance, the craziest Death Eater of them all! What did you think of her? Please take a moment and let me know.

Chapter 4: That Which Must Be Done
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That which you recognize from the books belongs to JK Rowling.

By the time Draco awoke the next morning, the visit from his aunt and her shadowy companions had taken on an indistinct, almost surreal quality in his mind. He found that his chambers were exactly as he remembered them before going to bed. The elves had laid out his neatly pressed clothes. There was no sign of trouble as he made his way down to the dining room. Old Moody was standing in the entryway and grunted something unintelligible at Draco as he passed. The sun was streaming through the windows and the day seemed unremarkable in every way. Draco began to seriously question whether he had dreamt the whole thing.

Then he saw the Daily Prophet. The elves had laid it out in front of his father’s seat at the head of the table, as they always did. The fact that he wouldn’t be there to read it didn’t seem to occur to them. Emblazoned across the top of the page, in enormous type, were the words, “MUGGLE HOSPITAL ATTACKED”. Draco felt a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach as he picked up the paper and studied the image of flames pouring from the windows of a large building. Muggle firemen were dousing the fire with water and there were people running everywhere. Beneath the photo, the caption declared, “Followers of You-Know-Who Suspected”.

Draco dropped the paper onto the table and closed his eyes. He tried to imagine what his father might say. The victims of the attack were muggles, which normally wouldn’t have bothered him. Muggles did far worse things to one another all the time. They were base, violent creatures and according to his father that was part of the reason why wizards needed to seize power in both worlds. But something didn’t sit well about the idea of attacking a hospital. Even his father would have called it... he struggled for the right word. Uncivilized.

A house elf appeared with a pop as Draco sat down at the table. “Mistress is not feeling well. She has asked for her breakfast in her chambers,” the elf croaked nervously as it placed Draco’s plate and goblet in front of him. Draco nodded dismissively and shooed the elf away. He wasn’t in the mood for company and he honestly wasn’t feeling hungry. His eyes kept flicking back to the paper lying in front of his father’s empty seat. Had the Dark Lord’s followers really gone to such lengths just so his aunt could visit?

His thoughts were interrupted by a piercing cackle that almost stopped his heart. His skin crawled as he turned to see the hauntingly mad eyes that regarded him from the doorway. She noticed the newspaper lying on the table and let out another terrible, ear-splitting laugh. “Oh, look, darling, we’re famous!”

His aunt swept across the room and pulled him into a hug, once again pressing the side of his head awkwardly into her chest. He flinched involuntarily, then cursed himself for his lack of control as she pushed him to arms length, staring at him quizzically. A wicked smile broke out across her taut lips and she pulled his face back into her cleavage. “Don’t worry, my dear little Draco. You’ll get to play with us soon enough!”

She released him and almost sprang away, glaring at him with greedy eyes. Then she grabbed his fork and shoved a large bite of his breakfast into her mouth. “Sho wut to oo fink?” she asked, not bothering to cover her mouth.

Draco’s mind was reeling. How had she managed to return, in broad daylight no less? He imagined Moody’s dead body lying in the Great Room and was surprised to discover that it troubled him a great deal. He gave his aunt a weak smile and mumbled, “Pardon?”

She took the goblet from in front of him and downed half of his juice. “I said, what do you think?” He stared back at her blankly. Her eager smile fell just a bit, and he felt a flash of panic. “About what we discussed last night, of course,” she prompted.

“Oh, that!” Draco fumbled, trying to decide what she wanted to hear. “I, um, well of course I want to help the Dark Lord.”

His aunt squealed with fiendish delight and tossed the half-full goblet aside. “Of course you do, darling!” she cried, lifting his chin with her fingers and beaming at him. Draco cringed, certain that she was about to crush his face into her breasts again, but she merely ruffled his hair and fixed him with another probing stare.

“And what about the mission we discussed? What about that?”

In spite of his best efforts, Draco was sure that his confusion had made its way onto his face. His aunt was still giving him the same eager smile, and his mind raced. He couldn’t recall anything about a mission, even when he was eavesdropping from the top of the stairs. Finally, he shook his head in defeat. Perhaps she would be slightly less angry with him for failing to pay attention than if he lied to her. “I was, uh, very tired last night. I’m afraid I forgot what the mission was.”

Her smile vanished, replaced by a look of severe reproach. “Draco, darling, this simply won’t do. The Dark Lord demands nothing short of perfection, and he does not forgive.” She trailed her fingers slowly across his collarbone before jamming them under his chin again, forcing him to meet her stare. “Now I want you to think very hard, dear. What do you recall about the mission we discussed?”

Draco’s chest felt like it was going to collapse. His heart was hammering against his ribs and abject panic gripped his mind. What was she talking about? He couldn’t remember anything about any mission. He tried desperately to keep the terror out of his voice. “I... I... Could you just give me a little hint?”

His aunt’s eyes flashed with rage. Her fingers fell away from his chin, but they were quickly replaced by the tip of a wand. “The Cruciatus Curse. Do you know it?” He nodded dumbly, feeling her wand dig into his skin with each small bob of his head. “Then I’m sure you know that only the Dark Lord himself is able to perform it with greater skill than your Auntie Bellatrix. This is important, Draco! I want you to tell me everything about your mission, in perfect detail, or I will show you just how we deal with Death Eaters who don’t pay attention.”

Draco opened his mouth, but all that came out was a pathetic sounding wheeze. His aunt suddenly leaned closer to him, hissing and baring her filthy teeth in a devilish grin. Draco let out an involuntary yelp. He felt a sudden warmth spreading from the crotch of his pants. The wand dug a fraction deeper into his neck.

“That’s enough, Nymphadora!”

Both of their heads jerked involuntarily toward the door, where old Moody had suddenly appeared. To Draco’s surprise, his aunt’s hair turned a violent shade of red. “Don’t. Call. Me. THAT!” she roared. But it wasn’t her voice. It took Draco only a moment to place it, and he suddenly felt more stupid than he had ever felt in his life.

“Start acting like an Auror instead of an angry child holding a grudge. Then I’ll call you whatever you want,” Moody snapped back.

Draco watched as his Aunt Bellatrix’s features slowly melted away, leaving only his cousin in her place. Her hair was a plain, mousy brown and the outfit she’d been wearing hung loosely over her smaller frame. She sniffed the air for a moment, then looked down at Draco’s lap. As she pulled her wand away from his throat, she let out a mirthless chuckle. “She’s nothing, you know? Compared to him. Try not to shit yourself, Draco. You’ll embarrass the family.”

The young Auror turned and strolled out of the room, giving her superior an angry glare as she passed. Moody stalked toward him. His wooden leg thumped heavily on the stone floor until he came to a stop next to Draco’s chair. “So she was here last night.” It was a statement, not a question. Draco saw no point in denying the obvious. He stared at the gilded stem of his spoon and nodded his head slowly.

“And she didn’t mention any sort of mission.” Again, he stated it like a simple fact. Draco shook his head. The room was silent for a long moment. “Listen, Malfoy. I don’t like you. You’re an arrogant, cowardly, loud-mouthed little weasel. But I’m gonna give you a piece of advice. Take it or don’t, I really don’t care.” Draco looked up at the old man, meeting his good eye for the first time. “There’s a shift change coming up at ten o’clock. I have a good idea that Benson’s gonna be late, seeing as how he was running around all night, trying to chase down your aunt’s associates.” Moody fixed him with both eyes. Draco felt like the man was staring straight through him. “Grab all the gold you can, take your mother and just go. Get as far away as you can.”

When Moody finished speaking, he turned and started to stalk out of the room. Almost without thinking about it, Draco asked, “What about my father?”

“What about him?” Moody snarled, not even bothering to turn around. “He’s the reason you’re in this mess. Cut your losses, kid.” Then he hobbled out into the Great Room and Draco was alone again.

Staring at the uneaten remains of his breakfast, Draco had never felt so hopeless and confused. Part of him wanted to do exactly what the old Auror said. To take what he could carry and leave this miserable life behind. Another part of him couldn’t bear the thought of leaving his father to rot away in prison or worse. The biggest part of him simply wanted to find a dry pair of pants without anyone seeing him. He realized that he desperately needed to talk to his mother, to find out what she was thinking. He stood up and took the newspaper from the table, then headed for the stairs, trying to look casual as he held it in front of his waist.

His mother’s chambers were cool and dark. All of the curtains were drawn against the morning sun. As Draco wandered across the small anteroom, he saw the past several editions of the Daily Prophet spread out on his mother’s chaise lounge and coffee table. Each seemed to be turned to an article on the recent surge in violence attributed to the Death Eaters. An ink pot and quill sat on the corner of the coffee table, along with a stack of his mother’s stationary. She had clearly been busy.

Draco paused for a moment, thinking back to their argument the day before. He remembered being furious at his mother, feeling hurt and betrayed by her actions. It seemed like days had passed. He was terrified of his aunt; he could admit that to himself. Was the Dark Lord really so much worse? How could such a terrible person possibly amass as many followers as the Dark Lord was supposed to have?

Power is his currency. And that power is based on fear. His mother’s words came back to him, and he pondered them as he turned toward the doors that led to her bedroom. His father certainly liked people to be afraid of him. He had always told Draco that people who feared you also respected you. But the fear his father inspired was different. Fear of losing your job or your spot on some Ministry committee was a far cry from the type of fear Draco felt toward his aunt.

He rapped softly on his mother’s bedroom door, then waited for a reply. After a minute or so, he tried again. “Mother, I know you’re in there,” he called out, testing the doorknob and finding it locked. After a moment, there was a soft click and the doors swung slowly open. Draco stepped inside and allowed his eyes to adjust. Her bedroom was even darker than the anteroom, lit by only a single oil lamp that flickered precariously along the far wall. Eventually, he was able to make out a quivering lump underneath the blankets on her bed.

“Mother, are you alright?” he asked tentatively, walking to her bedside.

A soft sob reached his ears, followed by another.

“Mother, what’s wrong?”

“He’s dead. I tried to reach out to him. To ask him for help. And now he’s dead.” Her voice sounded weary. Draco wondered how long she had been crying.

“Who’s dead, mother? Has something happened to father?”

The shape under the blankets gradually changed, becoming longer and more slender. “I should have known. I should have realized that they would find out.” His mother’s voice fell to a whisper. “I killed him as surely as if I’d cast the curse myself.”

“Mother, who?” Draco was beginning to feel frantic. If anything had happened to his father, he wasn’t sure he could ever forgive her.

“Uncle Augustus,” she answered before sobs began to shake her again.

Draco lowered himself onto the edge of her bed, trying to make sense of what she was telling him. His Great Uncle Augustus was a Rosier, a Slytherin and he was married to a pureblood daughter of the Selwyn family. Why the Dark Lord would allow the death of such a man was beyond his comprehension. “Mother, he was one of us. Are you sure?”

His mother slowly pulled herself to a sitting position, wrapping her arms around her knees. He could barely make out her swollen, red eyes in the pale lamplight. “Draco, the only us that means anything now is you and me. We can’t trust anybody else.”

“But why would the Dark Lord want your uncle dead? He was a pureblood.”

She looked away from him, toward a dark corner of the room. Her voice became wistful. “He was my favorite uncle when I was a little girl. Never harsh with us, always understanding. When Dromie ran away with the mudblood, he tried to calm everyone down. He said that she just needed some time to come to her senses. In the end, of course, they didn’t listen to him.” His mother turned her gaze back to him. “Bella had to respect his opinion. He was our elder, after all. But she never forgave him for it.” He could see the shiver run through her. “She was so angry with Dromie. Angrier than mother and father, even.”

Silence filled the room for a long moment. Draco struggled to reconcile his feelings. The idea of taking pity on a blood traitor was contrary to everything his father had taught him. But so many things didn’t make sense anymore. He needed time to figure it all out. And if Moody was to be believed, their time was running short.

“Mother, I think we should leave,” he said quietly. “Moody told me that the Auror who is relieving him at ten o’clock will be late. If we hurry, we can be ready to go as soon as the old bat and his awful little pet freak are gone.”

She stared at him, and he saw something different in her eyes. Hope? Pride? Whatever it was, it quickly faded and the gloom returned to her face. “Where would we go, Draco? Whose doorstep would we throw ourselves upon, seeking their pity? Those who are not aware of the Dark Lord’s anger would spit in our faces. And those who are would summon him immediately in the hope that they might be spared his wrath.”

“We could travel far away,” Draco insisted. “We could even hide among the muggles if we had to.”

His mother simply laughed, but it was mirthless, cold and empty. “We know nothing of their world. We would be lucky to survive a day.”

Draco stood up with a jerk and began to pace. “Well anything has to be better than sitting here, waiting to be killed. Come, mother! At least we’ll have a chance.”

He could hear the sheets of her bed rustling as he stared at the wall. Her slender fingers slipped over his shoulders and she coaxed him to turn and face her. His mother was dressed in a simple nightgown and her hair hung limply around her gaunt cheeks. Without her makeup, the dark circles that framed her tormented eyes stood out, even in the scant lamplight. She stared at him for a moment and then pulled him to her. His hands involuntarily rose to her sides. He felt as though he needed comfort her, even in the depths of his own despair. He could feel her ribs through the thin fabric and he realized that she weighed next to nothing.

“Oh, my darling,” she whispered mournfully. “We’ve failed you terribly.”

Draco was beginning to feel desperate. His eyes scanned her bedroom, looking for her dressing gown. If he could convince her to get dressed, perhaps one of the elves could apparate them to a safe place. The stupid little creatures didn’t seem to be affected by the wards the Ministry had placed around the manor.

“It’s going to be alright, mother,” Draco replied, trying to sound braver than he actually felt. “I’ll get us out of here. I’m not going to let the Dark Lord or anybody else kill us without a fight.”

His mother pushed him slightly away and stared into his eyes. She looked so weary. Draco was worried that she might collapse. “The Dark Lord isn’t like that, Draco. Merely killing us wouldn’t set a strong enough example. He’ll want to show that not even the Malfoys are allowed to disappoint him. The price will be much higher.”

Draco couldn’t help himself. He nearly knocked her down as he flung his arms into the air. “Dammit, mother, stop talking to me like I’m ten! What is he going to do to me?

He immediately felt sorry for his outburst and he expected her to be angry with him. Instead, Draco saw only the deepest sorrow in her dark eyes.

“He’s going to claim you for his own,” she replied softly as fresh tears filled her weary eyes. “You’ll be made his servant; branded with his mark.” She looked away, as though she couldn’t bear to meet his gaze. “After that, I don’t know.”

Draco turned away from his mother and she returned to her bed. He recalled the first time that he saw his father’s Dark Mark. On the morning of his father’s thirtieth birthday, Young Draco had slipped away from the nanny and burst into his parents’ private quarters, hoping to surprise his father with a card he had made. In spite of being half-dressed, his father had indulged young Draco’s misbehavior, accepting the card and ruffling his hair affectionately.

The dull, blackened shape on his father’s left arm immediately caught young Draco’s attention. But as soon as he asked about it, his father became angry, chasing him out of the bedroom. Draco was banished to his bedroom for the rest of the day. The guests at the birthday celebration were told that he had come down with dragon pox. He learned the following day that his father had sacked his nanny on the spot. The implications were obvious, even to a four-year-old boy.

In spite of the punishment, Draco remembered the mark on his father’s arm in a reverent sort of way. Secrets were powerful things, and his father seemed to have no greater secret than the dark, blurry scar that marred the skin below his left elbow. When the Dark Lord finally returned, his father made a great show of taking Draco into his private study and showing him how the mark had once again become vivid and distinct. He promised Draco that he, too, would have one when the time was right. Standing in his parents’ darkened bedchamber, watching his mother pick at the hem of her nightgown and try not to cry, Draco had never felt further removed from the four-year-old boy who used to smudge his forearm with soot from the fireplace and then pull his sleeve down, carefully guarding his cherished secret from the prying eyes of the world.

He pulled his sleeve back and stared at the inside of his left arm in the dim lamplight, imagining how the skull and snake would look on his pale skin. “Does it hurt?” he suddenly blurted out. His mother gave him a quizzical stare. “When he brands you with the mark, I mean.”

His mother rocked slowly back and forth on the edge of her bed. “Your father denied it, of course. He always did try to put on a brave face for me.” A small smile played across her lips, then faded away. “Your aunt called the pain ‘exquisite’.”

Without thinking about it, Draco’s hand moved to cover the exposed skin of his arm. His aunt was completely mental. All of them were. Anyone who chose to give their life to the Dark Lord had to be stark, raving mad. And now he was going to be one of them. He felt his free hand shaking. Terror gripped his mind and for one terrible moment he felt his control slipping away. His knees bent slightly as his body prepared to break into a sprint. He would grab the Nimbus 2001 sitting on the shelf in his closet and keep flying until the lot of them were far, far away. Draco was so caught up in panic that he didn’t hear his mother’s approach. Her fingers touched his arm and he nearly jumped out of his skin.

“It’s alright, darling,” she whispered, pulling him into a hug and smoothing his hair. “It’s alright to be frightened. Get it all out of your system now. You have to be prepared when you meet him.”

“What does he want from me, Mother?” Draco could feel his voice shaking. He felt tiny and vulnerable. “What should I do?”

He felt his mother shaking gently and she tightened her arms around him. “Do whatever you must, Draco. Just promise me that you’ll live.”

He's coming. Soon...

Huge thanks to my wonderful beta reader, sophie_hatter. If you haven't checked out her story, Evolution (M), what are you waiting on?

Chapter 5: The Price of Living
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As always, that which you recognize from the books belongs to JK Rowling.

“Eridanus Black married Prudence Thicknesse, daughter of Jasper Thicknesse and Berengaria Urquart. They had two sons and a daughter. Achenar, Canopus and...” Draco furrowed his brow as he desperately tried to remember the third sibling. She definitely shared a name with some heavenly body; this was a Black child, after all. The only thing that popped into his weary brain was Cancer, and he knew that wasn’t right. Who in their right mind would marry a girl named Cancer? The grin slipped onto his lips before he even realized it.

NOTHING IS FUNNY, DRACO!” his aunt shrieked, bringing him instantly back to reality. Her crazed eyes were inches from his and the foulness of her breath filled his nostrils as she huffed with barely contained rage.

“I- I’m sorry. I’ll try again.”

“You don’t try for the Dark Lord! You get it right. The first time. Or else!”

She spun on her heel and stormed away from him, whispering obscene things under her breath.

“Go through it once more, Draco.” His mother gave him a small, encouraging nod. Somehow, she was forcing herself to remain calm. Aunt Bella had been drilling him relentlessly for nearly two hours. Somewhere in Wales, her fellow Death Eaters were keeping the Aurors occupied by attacking a muggle university. Draco was amazed by the lengths they were going to so that she could torment him. He couldn’t help but wonder whether he would prove to be worth their time.

“He should know this by heart!” his aunt fumed. “What have you and that useless idiot been teaching this boy for the past fourteen years?”

“He knows his family history, Bella.” His mother’s voice remained low and even, but Draco could see the strain in her dark eyes. “I was not going to force him to endlessly recite it the way that father used to force us. I hated that.”

His aunt rushed at his mother, pausing inches away from her face. “Your disrespect for our family traditions is going to get us all killed, Narcissa! He isn’t ready to face the Dark Lord!”

“I told you that before. You wouldn’t listen.”

Bellatrix continued to stare into her eyes, but his mother refused to flinch. “It isn’t too late to stop this, Bella. You know him better than anyone alive. There must be some way to convince him to see reason. Some other price that he would accept in place of my son.”

His aunt flung her arms into the air and howled in frustration. “Out of the question! It was decided the moment Lucius allowed the prophecy to be lost. The Dark Lord demands payment in kind; a servant to replace the one who failed him. A worthy servant who knows how to carry out orders, not an idiot who falls before children!”

Draco’s mother bristled at the reference to her husband, but said nothing. He was growing tired of watching his aunt yell at her, so he ventured a question of his own. “Will he want to ask me about my family history? To prove I’m a pureblood or something? Is that why I need to memorize all of this?”

Bellatrix stared at him for a second, then turned back to his mother. “Is there anything worthwhile that this boy does know?”

His aunt ignored his mother’s icy glare and turned back to him with a reverential look in her deep-set eyes. “The Dark Lord is the most powerful Legilimens the world has ever known, Draco. Since they haven’t taught you anything else worthwhile, I’ll assume you don’t know what that means, either. He can read your thoughts with ease. Unless you learn to empty your mind of fear and doubt, he will instantly know that you are not fully committed, and we will all suffer for it. You must learn to fill your mind with other thoughts. Thoughts that come to you so effortlessly that you don’t even have to concentrate on them. If your parents had bothered to properly instruct you in our family’s heritage, you could use that knowledge to protect yourself.”

“There are other ways, Bella,” his mother snapped. Draco could hear her anger starting to rise. “Severus could help him learn proper Occlumency.”

His aunt let out a fiendish cackle. “You would trust that two-faced, half-blooded worm with your son’s life? A man who hides behind the skirts of our sworn enemy? Narcissa, even you aren’t so naive!”

“He’s the reason that Draco is standing here, Bella. He warned Draco on the night that the Dark Lord was seen in the halls of the Ministry. Gave him time to prepare for the Aurors’ arrival. If he’s not loyal to our side then why would he do such a thing?”

“That cost him nothing!” his aunt shouted, throwing her hands into the air. “He was already there, hiding in the bowels of Hogwarts while we were risking our lives to try and obtain the prophecy. Where was he on the night our master summoned us all to witness his rebirth?”

“The Dark Lord trusts him.”

“It doesn’t matter, Narcissa. I don’t trust him! What if he betrays us to curry favor with the others? Besides, we have no time.” Bellatrix fixed Draco with a stare that left him feeling naked and inadequate. “It would take him months to master the barest essentials, and there’s still no guarantee that he could shield his thoughts from the Dark Lord.”

“Studying with Severus would at least give him a chance. These parlor tricks you’re trying to teach him will never work!”

“Parlor tricks?” his aunt roared with indignation. “You have no idea what you’re talking about. The method I’m trying to teach the boy kept me in the Dark Lord’s good graces for years.”

It was his mother’s turn to laugh dismissively. “Bella, what secrets do you have that you would keep from him? We both know that you live to please him. That is what has kept you in his good graces.”

Bellatrix looked momentarily unsure of whether to be offended or gratified by his mother’s comment. She finally stammered, “Well, of course.” She stared pointedly at Draco. “Others could learn from my example.”

Draco couldn’t stand it any longer. “What’s Occlumency?” he blurted out, then shrank away from his aunt, expecting another stinging rebuke.

She merely sighed and rolled her eyes. “Occlumency is a very advanced magical technique for emptying your mind. A true Occlumens can withhold any information they desire, simply by willing it to disappear from their thoughts.”

“Severus Snape is supposed to be quite adept at it,” his mother added. “It is said that he can even keep secrets from the Dark Lord himself.”

“That remains unproven,” his aunt countered, glaring at his mother. “But whether or not it is true, this ability is why we must not trust him! Anyone who can keep secrets from our master could be lying about anything.”

“Well the current plan isn’t working!” his mother shot back. “So unless you can make the Dark Lord see reason, what do we have to lose by seeking his help?”

The anger in his aunt’s eyes gradually faded, replaced by a demented sort of reverie. “Maybe we simply haven’t tried the right teaching methods,” she crooned. Her fingers trailed slowly down the front of her chest before drawing her wand from the folds of her dress. Draco’s mother looked at her suspiciously, then a terrible realization settled onto her thin face.

“No. Out of the question, Bella. I forbid it!”

His aunt was immediately back in his mother’s face. “You forbid me to teach your son the things that might help to keep us all alive?”

“I forbid you to use father’s barbaric spells on him,” his mother replied. Draco could see her clenched fists shaking with anger.

His aunt’s voice fell to a furious whisper. “How dare you? You always did think that you were too pretty to do as you were told. Now you sully his name?”

“That’s not what I meant, Bella!” The two witches were practically nose to nose. “I honor our parents’ memories just as you do. But that doesn’t mean that I have to approve of every last thing father did to us!”

“Maybe you should take up with your dear sister Andromeda,” Bellatrix sneered. “The two of you would have a grand time, mocking our family’s traditions. Perhaps her husband could even introduce you to one of his charming mudblood friends.”

“I do not associate with blood traitors.” his mother hissed.

His aunt reached across the narrow gap separating them and slid the tip of her finger along her sister’s jawline. Her voice was cloyingly sweet. “Merely checking. For a moment, it seemed as though you had forsaken all of our family’s values.”

The two witches glared at each other for a moment longer before his mother finally spun away, turning her back on her sister. “This is not how he was raised, Bella. These spells of father’s are not going to help!”

“So rather than try, you would watch him die to satisfy the Dark Lord’s anger?” Bellatrix stared triumphantly at his mother’s back and Draco could feel his skin crawl. She seemed to take the silence that filled the room as agreement and turned to him with a twisted smile playing over her pallid face. “Roll up your sleeve, Draco.”

His eyes flicked from his aunt to his mother’s back. Mentally, he begged her to turn around. She had to say something. Do something -- anything -- to protect him from whatever his aunt was preparing to do to him. But she continued to face the other way. He could see her shoulders trembling slightly, and it only added to his desire to turn and run. “Are you going to put the Dark Mark on me before he gets here?”

His aunt cackled with ghastly amusement. “Oh, Draco, you really are precious.” She flicked her wand and suddenly the right sleeve of his shirt was sliced open from his wrist to his elbow, exposing the flesh of his forearm. He felt goosebumps rising on his bare skin as he willed himself not to pull away. “Only the Dark Lord can grant you that honor. He alone is able to perform the spells. What I’m going to show you is a spell that our parents used to help us memorize our noble forebears. It focuses the mind and helps to eliminate distractions.”

In spite of his fear, Draco had to admit that it sounded like a good spell. He hadn’t felt especially focused since the night that Professor Snape stormed into his dormitory and brought his entire life crashing down around him. A small, nervous smile crossed his lips as he held his arm out. His aunt took his wrist in her cold, bony fingers and slowly massaged the inside of his forearm with the fingertips of her wand hand. In spite of himself, he relaxed slightly. For the first time since the night she appeared in their home, it seemed as though she might have his best interests at heart.

Bellatrix pulled her hand back and aimed her wand at his forearm. “Hold still, darling. This won’t hurt a bit.”

“Bella, no!” His mother spun around and raised her hands in impotent protest, but it was too late. Draco flinched involuntarily as the spell struck his arm. As the surface of his arm rippled, he felt... nothing. The spell seemed to sink harmlessly into his flesh. The glow quickly faded away, leaving only his pale skin.

“Now,” his aunt continued, sliding her wand back into the folds of her skirt, “let’s try this again, shall we? Draco, begin reciting where we left off before.”

Draco took a deep breath. He did feel more focused somehow. The nagging fears and doubts had left his mind, and his aunt’s coy smile made him feel calm. His mother still looked horrified, but maybe she simply didn’t understand the spell his aunt was using. For the first time in weeks, he felt as though things might actually turn out alright.

“Eridanus Black married Prudence Thicknesse,” he began, “daughter of Jasper Thicknesse and Berengaria Urquart. They had two sons and a daughter. Achenar, Canopus and...” He hesitated for just a moment, but his mind quickly delivered the answer. “... and Castor.”

The pain in his arm was instant. Draco felt his knees buckle as he gripped his forearm, desperately trying to stop the burning. His scream echoed off of the tall windows of the library, mixing with his aunt’s cruel laughter. When he managed to tear his fingers away, he could see the letters bubbling up in his seared, smoldering skin. Castula.

“It’s from the Greek, darling,” his aunt crooned mockingly, leaning over his shoulder. He barely caught sight of his mother’s back as she rushed from the room with her face buried in her hands. “According to the family history, she was a proud, talented witch. She married a Burke and bore him three beautiful, pure blooded children.” She lifted his chin on the tips of her fingers and stared into his eyes. “Would you care to name them?”

Draco’s eyes nervously flitted around the dark, windowless room where the Dark Lord held court among his minions. The atmosphere somehow managed to be cold and stifling all at once. Lamps flickered near the ceiling, casting an eerie mosaic of constantly moving shadows. The Dark Lord himself was difficult to see. He sat in a high-backed chair with winged sides that shrouded his face in darkness. The faces of the others were similarly difficult to make out. Occasionally, Draco caught sight of the glint of hard eyes or a nose that stood out in relief, but most of the Death Eaters chose to conceal themselves with hooded robes. It seemed that only his family proudly displayed their identities. With his pale skin and platinum blonde hair, Draco was easily the most conspicuous figure in the entire room, and it set his nerves even more on edge.

No! He couldn’t allow himself to feel nervous. He had to keep his fear in check.

Sextans Black, son of Dephinus Black and Clara Effington. Married Faustinia Nott. Two daughters, Celestina and Vespera.

Next to him, his aunt rocked back and forth on the balls of her feet. He could almost feel the nervous energy radiating from her as she leaned to and fro, trying to catch any glimpse of her master as he addressed each of his followers in turn. Whenever the hollow hiss of his voice reached her ears, she seemed to vibrate with anticipation. He caught a look at the face of another Death Eater when the man shot a glance in her direction. The subtle look of distaste left him with the distinct impression that he also thought she was mad. Draco realized that she was whispering softly but urgently to herself, agreeing with each order the Dark Lord issued before dismissing its recipient with a minute wave of his skeletal hand.

As the next man was summoned, Draco noticed a large shape in the shadowy recesses beneath the Dark Lord’s chair. It reflected an occasional glimmer of lamplight and seemed to undulate in an almost organic way. He could only guess what manner of dark magic was responsible, assuming that his eyes weren’t simply playing tricks on him in the dimly lit room. His eyes or his imagination. He sucked down a deep breath and tried again to reign in his stray thoughts.

Gemina Black, daughter of Dephinus Black and Clara Effington. Married Horatio Warrington. One son and one daughter, Apollo and Kestra.

The attention of the room’s inhabitants was drawn to a commotion near the entrance as two wizards in black robes dragged in a struggling figure with a black hood over its head. The prisoner appeared to be a man of average height and build. He was wearing a dark green suit of the muggle fashion and his hands were bound behind his back. As his captors continued to force him forward, the man tried desperately to plant his feet and propel himself backward.

“What have you brought us, Avery?” The Dark Lord’s voice filled the room, soft yet unmistakably clear. The captive froze, and a terrified yelp escaped from beneath the heavy hood.

“Lawrence Radford of the Magical Law Department, my lord, as you asked,” the wizard called Avery replied. Draco instantly recognized him. Once, during a party at the manor, his father had introduced Draco to him. Privately, his father had confided that Avery was a simpleton, limited in his faculties and prone to excessive drinking and unnecessary violence. For one small instant, Draco felt slightly pleased with himself. Thanks to his father, he knew something, a piece of information that might or might not prove useful. But it was something, and he almost dared to believe that it conferred some small advantage.

The Dark Lord’s voice called out again, eerie and seductive. “I wish to speak to you, Mr. Radford.” The man under the hood suddenly stiffened. Avery and the other Death Eater released him and another cloaked figure ripped the hood from his head as he stumbled mechanically forward. Even in the pale lamplight, Draco could see the terror in his eyes as he passed. Cruel, muffled laughter could be heard around the room as Radford came to a stop in front of the Dark Lord. The shape underneath the chair made a sudden move and Draco saw a diamond-shaped pattern shimmer and swirl for just a moment in the reflections of the lamps.

The Dark Lord allowed the man to stand before him, stiff as a board, for a long moment before his voice once again seeped around the room. “I know that you are privy to the whereabouts of Madam Bones and her family. The end of your life will be far more pleasant if you willingly share this knowledge with me.”

Another round of menacing chuckles filled the room. The man finally stammered out, “Madam Bones moves her family each night. None of us know the precise location.”

LIAR!” The Dark Lord’s words shook the room like thunder. With no apparent motion, he was suddenly standing over the terrified man. Draco felt a shiver run down his spine as he caught his first full look at the wizard who called himself Lord Voldemort. His pale skin was stretched tightly over his skeletal, angular face. The planes of his cheeks met at a nose that was little more than two serpentine slits. His skin was a sickly-looking, chalky white. But above all else, it was his eyes that chilled Draco to the bone. The cat-like slits of his pupils were surrounded by blazing scarlet that seemed to glow with the unnatural intensity of a dying star.

Beside him, Draco felt his mother’s grip tighten on his arm. While Aunt Bellatrix was veritably bouncing with giddiness as she basked in the Dark Lord’s presence, his mother had barely made a sound since they assumed the place assigned to them, and now it was almost as though she was holding onto him for dear life.

“You disappoint me, Mr. Radford,” the Dark Lord said as he slowly lowered himself back into his chair. “I offered you compassion. A chance to die with a measure of dignity. And how do you repay my kindness? With lies. Is this really what you want? To spend your final moments begging for an end to your suffering?”

Radford took a slow, shaky breath and did his best to look into the Dark Lord’s crimson eyes. “I have made the Unbreakable Vow. Do you understand that? I could not tell you where Madam Bones was located even if I knew for certain.”

The Dark Lord stared back at the terrified man with a piercing gaze. A hint of a smile crossed his thin, ashen lips. “You know what they say about the Unbreakable Vow, don’t you, Mr. Radford?” From the folds of his robes, he drew a wicked-looking white wand with a claw-shaped spur at the bottom of its handle and cradled it between his long, bony fingers. Radford began shaking involuntarily as he stared at it. The Dark Lord’s face twisted into a sneer. “It was made to be broken.”

For the next five minutes, Draco retreated into his family history as Radford’s screams filled the room. Reality became a twisted blur of horrifying noises and the bloodthirsty leers of the other Death Eaters.

Arcturus Black, son of Phineas Nigellus Black and Ursula Flint. Married Lysandra Yaxley. Three daughters, Callidora, Cedrella and Charis.

Beside him, his aunt howled with wicked glee as she watched her master ply the curse that she yearned to master at his level of perfection. Draco stole glances in her direction, watching cruelty and childlike wonder blend seamlessly in her adoring eyes. His mother’s grip threatened to cut off the circulation to his forearm.

Titus Malfoy, son of Brutus Malfoy and Ysillum Montague. Married Arabela Flynt. One son, Armand Malfoy.

Silence suddenly filled the room. His surroundings seemed much darker than he remembered until it dawned on him that his eyes were squeezed shut so tightly that it was giving him a headache. Forcing them open, he found that even the dim lamplight seemed uncomfortably bright. Draco watched a short, fat wizard with rodent-like features drag the unconscious man along a path that had opened up toward the door. The Dark Lord’s voice floated through the room. “Secure him in the basement, Wormtail. I wish to speak with him again when we are finished here. Young Mr. Malfoy, I will speak with you now.”

Draco’s blood froze. If it hadn’t for his aunt’s bony fingers digging into his back, he certainly would have remained rooted to the floor.

Armand Malfoy, son of Titus Malfoy and Arabela Flynt. Married Pernicia Warrington. One son, Hadrian Malfoy and one daughter, Maribella Malfoy.

Cruel sneers came from every direction as he made his way to the Dark Lord’s chair, flanked by his mother, who stared straight ahead, and his aunt, who met each unfriendly face with a defiant glare. Draco came to a stop and he could feel the Dark Lord’s eyes boring into him. He felt transparent, as though every fiber of his being was being inspected and evaluated.

Hadrian Malfoy, son of Armand Malfoy and Pernicia Warrington. Married Penelope Longbottom. One daughter, Catherine Malfoy and one son, Abraxas Malfoy.

Aunt Bellatrix was trembling with excitement as she drank in the Dark Lord’s nearness, and, unable to restrain herself any longer, she blurted out, “My Lord, the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black is proud to offer our family’s sole heir into your service.”

The Dark Lord’s glowing red eyes remained fixed on Draco. His voice was chilling and distant. “Do not flatter yourself, Bellatrix. The boy unites two bloodlines of my oldest and most loyal servants. From the moment he was conceived, he was mine.”

Draco felt his aunt flinch as though she had been physically struck. She bowed her head and shoulders, mumbling a tearful apology under her breath as cruel chuckles filled the room.

The Dark Lord continued to stare at him, unmoving. Draco summoned every last ounce of his self control and forced himself to remain perfectly still.

Pollux Black, son of Cygnus Black and Violetta Bulstrode. Married Irma Crabbe. One daughter, Walburga and two sons, Alphard and Cygnus.

He fixed his eyes on a loose thread in the chair’s upholstery, just above the Dark Lord’s head. The fine, silky strand poked out into the surrounding air, an almost imperceptible flaw in the otherwise perfect design woven into the elegant fabric. Draco found himself wondering what could have damaged the chair so precisely, leaving the surrounding threads untouched. The Dark Lord’s voice almost took him by surprise.

“Why are you here, Draco?”

The question was brutal in its simplicity, and the words betrayed no hint of the Dark Lord’s thoughts. The undercurrent of coarse whispers and cruel sniggers died away as the entire room seemed to await Draco’s answer. Taking a deep breath and keeping his voice as even as he could manage, Draco said what he hoped the Dark Lord wanted to hear.

“I want to help you get rid of all the blood traitors and mudbloods. I want to serve you like my father.”

There was a long moment of silence.

Abraxus Malfoy, son of Hadrian Malfoy and Penelope Longbottom. Married Heminea Burke. One son, Lucius.

“Your father has only the barest understanding of what it means to serve me. His true masters are pride and fear.” The Dark Lord steepled his fingers in front of his pale, thin lips and continued to stare. “I see a lot of him in you, Draco. So I will ask you only once more: why are you here?”

Draco felt his gaze slip lower, carefully avoiding those burning red eyes and coming to rest on the padded arm of the chair. The deep greens and browns of the patterned toile looked almost alive in the flickering lamplight. “I’m here because I don’t want you to kill me.”

Snorts of mocking laughter arose from the assembled Death Eaters. He heard his aunt hiss with displeasure and felt her bony fingers seize the back of his arm in a painful grip. But the Dark Lord silenced them all with a small gesture of his left hand.

“An honest answer, if not a promising one. Bellatrix, Narcissa, remain where you are. The rest of you, leave us.”

Draco continued to stare at the arm of the chair as the others filed out of the room. The low hum of whispered conversation grew softer until the door finally closed with a thump that seemed to echo in Draco’s chest.

Cygnus Black, son of Pollux Black and Irma Crabbe. Married Druella Rosier. Three daughters, Bellatrix, Andromeda and Narcissa.

As soon as they were alone, his aunt veritably launched herself forward, yanking Draco’s arm back and falling to her knees beside him. “Please forgive us, master. We had only limited time to prepare the boy. If I could-”

“Enough.” The finality of the Dark Lord’s words stunned her into silence and she merely looked up at him through pitiful, tear-filled eyes. “Return to your place, Bellatrix.”

Draco shifted his stance slightly as his aunt pulled herself back to her feet. His legs were growing stiff and maintaining his posture was starting to make him feel light-headed.

Lucius Malfoy, son of Abraxas Malfoy and Heminea Burke. Married Narcissa Black. One son, Draco Malfoy.

The Dark Lord shifted his head slightly, as if to study Draco from another perspective. His snake-like eyes narrowed. “What would you be willing to do for me if I were to spare your life, Draco?”

For a moment, Draco was unable to answer. It had to be a trick question. His mind was spinning faster than he thought possible. But in the end, the conclusion was inescapable. There was only one answer that would not result in his immediate death. “Anything.”

The Dark Lord leaned back in his chair. His face was completely impassive and his voice was calm. “I want you to kill Albus Dumbledore.”

This time, Draco’s jaw did drop slightly. He fought back the urge to beg the Dark Lord’s pardon. Surely he must have misunderstood. He couldn’t possibly kill Dumbledore. A thousand reasons why flashed through his mind. But before he could stammer out a single word, his mother was by his side.

“This is impossible! Hogwarts is a fortress! Even if Draco could get close enough, he’s only a boy! Dumbledore will-”

SILENCE!” The command echoed in the empty room. Draco felt his mother grab onto his shoulder for support as her words abruptly ceased.

The Dark Lord rose to his feet and stared down at them. His eyes blazed with malicious cruelty. “Do not answer hastily, Draco. You would find it far easier if I simply killed you to erase the stain of your father’s failure.” Draco felt his mother’s grip tighten on his shoulder. He stole a glance in her direction and realized that she was struggling to breathe. The Dark Lord continued to speak, and Draco’s attention snapped back to him. “If you succeed in killing Dumbledore, you will become a pariah. The Ministry will hunt you relentlessly. My victory will be your only salvation.” His mother let out a strangled wheeze, but he could not tear his eyes away from the black-robed figure looming over him. “If you fail, you will surely die.”

The Dark Lord glowered at him for a long moment before lowering himself back into his chair. Draco could feel his mother’s fingers growing weaker. He looked at her again and her lips were beginning to turn blue. “You came to me asking to live, Draco. This is my price.” He tapped the point of his wand against the palm of his hand. “Do you accept?”

“Yes, yes!” Draco stammered, wrapping his arm around his mother’s shoulder. Her eyes were starting to roll back into her head. “Please, just let her go and I’ll do whatever you ask.”

The Dark Lord stared at him for an agonizing moment. “Be wary of your attachments, Draco. You see how easily they can be used against you.” With a disinterested flick of his bony fingers, Draco’s mother suddenly collapsed into his side, gasping for air. He steadied her until she managed to regain her composure, then turned back to the Dark Lord who regarded him with the utmost seriousness.

“Draco Malfoy, you are about to enter into a vow which cannot be broken. Will you serve me, obey my orders and uphold the values I represent, even if it should lead to your death?”

Draco felt his mother’s fingers slip into his hand, and he did his best to give them a reassuring squeeze. “Yes.”

“Expose your left arm.” Draco started to roll up his left sleeve, but his aunt eagerly pinned his arm against her body and began to do it for him. He looked at her face and saw that she was beaming, a gleeful smile plastered on her gaunt, pallid face. When his forearm was completely bare, Draco took a deep breath and stepped toward the Dark Lord, who rose from his chair.

Lifting his wand, the Dark Lord allowed it to hover above the pale skin just below Draco’s elbow. “Draco Malfoy, I grant you the honor of wearing my mark. Let it serve as an indelible reminder of your oath to me and your duty to preserve the sanctity of the pure wizarding blood that runs through your veins.”

The Dark Lord mumbled softly beneath his breath. The tip of his wand began to glow with a dull, red light that grew brighter as it drew closer to Draco’s trembling flesh. Even before it touched him, Draco could feel the searing heat. He flinched involuntarily, but the Dark Lord was faster. Long, skeletal fingers enclosed his wrist in a viselike grip. Draco forced himself to look away, but the only thing left to focus on in his world of mortal terror were the burning, red eyes that hovered above his face.

The tip of the Dark Lord’s wand made contact with his skin and he bit the inside of his lip to keep from screaming.

Gallienus Malfoy, son of Valerian Malfoy and Egnatia Goyle. Married Minuet Prewett. Two daughters, Aurelia and Eilonwy and one son, Septimus.

Draco could feel the scorching hot wand digging into his arm. The taste of his own blood filled his mouth. The slits of the Dark Lord’s pupils disappeared, leaving only the fiery, red glow. Still, he managed to contain the howl of agony that threatened to explode from his clenched throat.

Arcturus Black, son of Sirius Black and Hester Gamp. Married Melania MacMillan. One daughter, Lucretia and one son, Orion.

The acrid smell of burning flesh assaulted Draco’s nostrils. In his mind’s eye, he could see the tip of the Dark Lord’s wand pressing against his bone as the surrounding flesh burned and melted away. The pain radiated outward, as though his entire arm was on fire. A tiny yelp escaped, and he squeezed his eyes tightly shut, unwilling to allow the Dark Lord to see the moment he broke.

Brutus Malfoy, son of...

In an instant, the pain was gone. Draco felt the the iron grip on his wrist disappear and he managed to force his eyes open in time to see the Dark Lord settle back into his chair. He stared back at Draco, looking almost amused.

Panic gripped Draco as he tried to force his eyes down. He fully expected to see the burned flesh hanging limply from his blackened bones. His arm would be a bloody, mutilated mess. It dawned on him that the Healers at St. Mungo’s couldn’t help him if they wanted to, which they certainly would not. His injury was caused by dark magic. Their spells would do nothing. He was condemned to-

“Oh, Cissy, look!” his aunt squealed with delight. “It’s perfect, just perfect!”

Draco felt his aunt yank his arm against her chest and squeeze it against her breasts. With considerable effort, he finally managed to tear it free from her grasp. He looked down and saw the black skull on his otherwise unblemished skin. Its vacant eyes stared ahead as the serpent that emerged from its mouth seemed to writhe on his skin. He turned toward his mother, but she only looked at his eyes. He managed a weak smile, and for a moment she looked almost relieved.

“How touching,” the Dark Lord crooned mockingly, drawing all of their attention instantly back to him. “Like father, like son.”

“Draco will never fail you the way that his idiot father did,” Bellatrix declared, seizing his shoulder.

The Dark Lord leveled a piercing gaze in her direction. “See that he does not. I leave the details of his mission to you. Do not fail me, Bellatrix.”

His aunt flung herself into a deep bow, but the Dark Lord barely seemed to notice. “You are all forbidden to speak of Draco’s mission to anyone. Before the boy comes of age, I expect the old fool to be dead, or you will suffer in his place.”

The dark shape that Draco had noticed beneath the Dark Lord’s chair suddenly stirred. A narrow face with a blunt snout and gleaming, yellow eyes emerged from the side of the chair and rose into his lap. He absently stroked the top of the great serpent’s head with his pale, slender fingers.

“We have nothing further to discuss. Send Severus in. I wish to speak with him, alone.”

When Draco emerged into the hallway, the expressions that greeted him ranged from shock to outright disappointment. All save one. Professor Snape stood alone in a corner, regarding Draco evenly with his coal-black eyes. For an instant, Draco locked eyes with the Potions Master. Part of him wanted to nod or smile; to offer some small token of his gratitude. But his newfound sense of self-preservation instantly overruled that impulse, and he redirected his gaze to his aunt’s back and followed her away from the door.

Bellatrix elbowed her way past the other Death Eaters, keeping her chin high and shooting dismissive glares at anyone in her path. She came to a stop in front of Snape, who did his best to ignore her. “Our master wishes to see you now, Severus. It wouldn’t do to keep him waiting. Hurry along.” He rolled his dark eyes and stepped around her before making his way to the room where the Dark Lord sat.

Draco and his mother followed Bellatrix to a door where a terrified-looking house elf appeared with their traveling cloaks. “We’re off to celebrate my nephew’s acceptance into our master’s inner circle,” she announced to nobody in particular. “A good evening to you all.”

The warm air of a summer night had never tasted so good as Draco stepped into the courtyard surrounding the mansion where the Death Eaters had gathered. Bellatrix offered her arm to them, but his mother politely declined. “A moment alone with my son, if I may?”

It seemed that nothing could dampen his aunt’s mood. “Of course, Cissy.” She reached out and pulled his face into her cleavage. The gesture had become so familiar that Draco barely even cringed. “I am so proud of you, darling. Sleep well tonight. Tomorrow, we begin your training.” Then she released him, turned and disappeared with a pop.

As soon as she was gone, Draco turned and threw himself into his mother’s embrace. He felt her arms wrap around him and he let out all of his pent-up emotions in a single breath that came out somewhere between a whimper and a sob. “I’m sorry, mother. I’m so sorry.”

She pushed him away and stared into his eyes. There was a fierceness to her gaze, a deep strength that he never expected to see after the ordeal they had just been through. “You have nothing to apologize for Draco. Do you hear me? Nothing!”

“But I...” His voice trailed off as he tried to find the right words. “I never meant to say yes. I never meant to just give in without even putting up a fight.” He pulled up his sleeve and studied the mark on his left arm in the bright light of the moon. “I didn’t want to end up like this. I’m....”

She pressed her finger against his lips before he could continue. “When you wake up in the morning, you will be a Death Eater, Draco. Nothing can change that now. But you will wake up. The rest, we’ll figure out somehow.”

“Do... do you really think I can do it?” he asked, feeling a great weight pressing on his shoulders. “Do you really think I can kill him?”

“I don’t know,” she replied softly. “I hope that you never have to kill anyone. But we’ve made it this far, and I’m not going to give up now. Whatever it takes, we’re going to keep you alive Draco. You promised me, remember?”

He returned her weak smile. “Promise me that you’ll live, too. Someday, when I have children of my own, I want them to know their grandmother.”

She kissed him on the cheek and wrapped her arm around his shoulders. “That sounds like something worth living for.” Then she turned on her heel and they both disappeared with a soft crack.

After giving it a lot of thought, I've decided that this is where Marked will end. We've seen Draco take the Dark Mark and receive his orders to kill Dumbledore. I'm really not sure how much more I could add to what we already know from canon. Plus, anything that happens after he meets Voldemort (and survives) just seems anticlimactic to me.

Thanks, as always, to my amazing beta reader, sophie_hatter. And I thank you for reading!

-CambAngst (Dan) 18 October 2012