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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

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