Draco Malfoy sat beside his mother, his chin propped up on his closed fist and mouth set in a stubborn frown. Wind poured through the open windows of the Knight Bus, tangling his silvery blonde hair, stinging his grey eyes, and making a general mess of everything. He felt miserable and humiliated, as his frown suggested. Narcissa Malfoy sat tall and proud, hands folded in her lap and blonde hair pulled tightly into a bun and hidden beneath an extravagant hat. Her gaze was distant and unreadable. Mother and son, so much the same, but yet so different.

Draco had not had the best of all days. The news of his father’s arrest had come as a shock. Well, maybe not so much of a shock as it was a fear confirmed. It was enough that Potter had told the reporter of The Quibbler that Lucius Malfoy was a Death Eater, but for the Ministry to actually act on the suspicion and get his father locked away was beyond insult. Potter deserved any curse he would have received, had Draco not been attacked first. He felt fortunate that Pansy had found him and performed a suitable counter-curse on the train before his mother had seen him in the condition in which Potter’s ‘fan club’ had left him. When one could not even attack an enemy without being surrounded by twenty unfriendly wands, the world was truly crumbling.

His mother had not spoken since she had met him at the platform. Narcissa Malfoy was not one to remain silent, even in the most dire of circumstances. Draco hoped that this was a sign that something immensely important had happened but she needed to speak with him about it privately.

The Knight Bus came to an abrupt halt, and voice from the front called out: “Wil’shire!”

Narcissa Malfoy stood and made her way pompously towards the front of the bus. Draco followed his mother with a little less pride. He could’ve sworn that with each row they passed, more whispers arose. By the time they were stepping off the bus, Draco felt as if he was being pursued by a thousand angry snakes. With each accusing hiss, Draco felt the burden on his shoulders becoming heavier and heavier.

When Draco’s luggage had been unloaded from the bus, it raced off into the darkness. The two Malfoys stood staring up at their manor on the edge of Wiltshire. It was splendid, that was true, but without his father’s presence, Draco felt that it seemed slightly as if it were falling into decay. Narcissa waved her wand a couple times and Draco’s luggage followed the two obediently as they made their way toward the gates.

“Mother,” Draco began slowly, “I-”

“Do not speak, Draco,” Narcissa said immediately. “It would be better for you.”

Draco closed his mouth and passed through the gates behind his mother. It was odd – he had always been permitted to speak his thoughts with his mother, even if Lucius forbade it much of the time. Something was wrong that went beyond the scope of his father being imprisoned. Why would it be better for him if he did not speak? Was the manor being watched?

It was impossible. Malfoy Manor was under a plethora of enchantments to keep it safe from Muggles and other un-welcomes. Still, with Lucius in Azkaban, perhaps the Ministry of Magic had penetrated some of these spells. The Malfoy family was notorious for practicing the Dark Arts. Proof was not required on this account, and rarely was it found, but the rumors were always stronger than the facts. Draco was certain that the Ministry had taken the opportunity of the arrest to raid the manor and comb every nook and cranny of his home for anything related to the Dark Arts. Fortunately, the most important objects were hidden in a chamber beneath the drawing room, so that would not have been a problem. The Ministry putting a bugging spell on the grounds would be a problem.

By the time he thoroughly thought this theory through, they arrived at the front door. Dasek – their new House Elf since Dobby had been cleverly dismissed – opened the door with the utmost respect.

“Dasek welcomes you back Mistress, Master,” the elf bowed deeply and closed the door behind them.

“Dasek, fetch suitable beverages and bring them to the sitting room,” Narcissa ordered. She handed the house elf her hat, and she ran off to obey her mistress.

Narcissa turned to Draco. “Run up to your quarters and freshen up. Then come to the sitting room. There is something that needs to be…discussed.”

Draco bowed his head obediently and trudged up the grand staircase at the end of the hall. He was not in a hurry to reach the sitting room. His mother’s choice of words had seemed – to him – less like an invitation and more like a verdict.

As he walked along the corridors of his home, he scanned the walls. All the portraits seemed to be in place and doing as they always did. The portrait of his mother and father was causing a racket as they argued, but the moment his mother – in the portrait – spotted him, they were silent. Strange, very strange.

He slipped into his quarters and began to tidy himself up. He changed out of his school robes and adopted some more traditional ones. As he combed the tangles out of his hair, he heard whispering and he could only assume it was the portraits, as he had left his door ajar.

“…It’s untraditional…”

“…He’s far too young…”

“…Why would he do any better than all the others?…”

Violently pulling at a particularly difficult knot, Draco tried to figure out who and what the portraits were talking about. Apparently something important had been going on around the manor in his absence, but he had already been able to guess that much by his mother’s odd behavior.

By its nature, Malfoy Manor was not the most pleasant of all places. But even for the Manor, Draco found that this mystery was most curious. He pulled harder at his hair, attempting to hurry his freshening. He was convinced that the sooner he reached the sitting room, the sooner he would discover the source of his mother’s odd behavior – the source of the unusual whispers from the portraits. A quick glance over in the mirror, and he raced out of his room and began downstairs to the sitting room.

When he reached his destination, Draco found that his mother and Dasek were waiting for him with two visitors. One of the visitors he recognized: a squat, rat-faced individual called ‘Wormtail’ whom he had seen his father conversing with in the past. The other visitor was robed, but Draco needed only to guess the face beneath the hood. He wished he had not taken so long in his quarters.

“Sit, Draco Malfoy,” the robed man said. His voice was shrill, but yet it somewhat resembled a snake’s hiss. Draco shivered involuntarily and obeyed.

“Relay the proposition, Wormtail,” the man said again. The rat-faced man complied.

“Pending recent events, the Dark Lord has decided that certain precautious measures need to be taken before He can resume His rightful place.” The mousy man raised his head so he looked Draco directly in the eyes. “Certain parties need to be removed before He can ascend.”

“Do you know who these ‘certain parties’ are, Draco Malfoy?” Lord Voldemort asked from beneath his hood.

“Potter,” Draco said, feeling very much like he had just cursed. “Harry Potter.”

A cold air seemed to settle in the room, then the Dark Lord chuckled. “I shall remove Potter myself. There are different parties that are proving inconvenient.”

Draco scanned the list of possible threats in his mind and selected a different one before clearing his mind again. “Dumbledore.”

Voldemort laced his fingers together and nodded his head. “Correct. You prove to be as clever as your father was before the last…mishap.”

Draco noted, far in the back of his mind, that the Dark Lord was referring to his father as if he here already dead. Such reference – especially from one as vengeful as Lord Voldemort – was not promising. Draco swallowed a comment as the Dark Lord continued.

“I have tried in many ways to be rid of Albus Dumbledore. He always mistrusted me. When I was in school, I had planned to kill him with the Basilisk, but that miserable Myrtle ruined my plans by getting in the way. He trusted me even less after that night. I tried to kill him again shortly before I visited Godric’s Hollow, but once again I failed. I cannot waste any more precious time on him. I require one of my trusted Death Eaters to dispose of him in service to me.”

Draco gawked at the Dark Lord for a moment. Surely he was not asking Draco to complete this task for him? He was too young to be a Death Eater – only fifteen, not seventeen until the summer after this one. Why was Draco being told all of this?

“You wonder why I tell you this,” Voldemort said, as if reading Draco’s mind – which Draco emptied upon hearing the Dark Lord’s comment. “I require somebody who can easily go about the Hogwarts grounds without suspicion.”

Draco had picked up on Lord Voldemort’s implications, as much as he was trying to deny them. However, he knew there was only one thing he could say without receiving the Cruciatus Curse. “How may I be of service, my Lord?” she said distinctly so that Voldemort would not sense any doubt or hesitation.

A smile played on Voldemort’s lips. “Very good, Draco. You will kill him for me.”

Draco looked directly at the Dark Lord, and was no longer able to hide his emotion. How is the world was he going to be able to kill the Headmaster of Hogwarts without being killed himself? His already pale face grew paler as a thousand doubts flooded his mind. Evidently, Voldemort had anticipated his shock. A very bulky, threatening-looking man stepped out of the shadows.

“Narcissa, dear, I believe you are already acquainted with this gentleman. Draco, might I introduce Fenrir Greyback?” Voldemort indicated to the man.

Draco gulped. No, he had not been formally introduced to this man, but he had met him. Fenrir Greyback was amongst the most violent of werewolves, and he specialized in children – anyone under the age of seventeen. He would actually place himself near children when his full moon cycle was coming so that it was almost inevitable that the child would be bitten. Then, he would raise the children from ‘pups’ and teach them to serve Lord Voldemort. Greyback was definitely not someone Draco wished to be around. Many years ago, when Draco was about five, he had positioned himself near Malfoy Manor, and Draco had very nearly been bitten. Since, he had hated and feared werewolves.

The Dark Lord continued. “Fenrir here shall be checking in on your progress from time to time. To be sure that you are doing your utmost to solve my little dilemma.”

Lord Voldemort stood. “The wine was most exquisite, Narcissa. Good evening, Draco.” He left the room, Wormtail trailing lowly behind him. Fenrir paused long enough to shoot Draco a toothy grin before following his master as well.

Draco stared after them for a moment, his mind filled with a thousand questions. His train of thought was interrupted, however, when a violent burning burst from his upper arm. He opened his mouth to scream, but he could make no noise. Draco tore at the sleeve of his robe, tore violently until the material fell away. Fresh on his skin, he saw something that scared him.

In the pinkish color of a new scar, Draco saw the Dark Mark.

“It is finished, then,” Narcissa said bitterly. “He is punishing me. He took Lucius, and now He is taking you. Don’t fail Him, Draco.” She stood from the plush chair in which she had been sitting and began to walk shakily toward the hall.

In a whispery voice, she added, “Don’t fail me.”

Only as his mother left did Draco begin to realize the seriousness of his task. Kill Dumbledore. It was impossible. But now, at least, he was a Death Eater. That was what he wanted.

Wasn’t it?

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something to think about

"You know, I don't know if you'll understand this or not, but sometimes, even when I'm feeling very low, I'll see some little thing that will somehow renew my faith. Something like that leaf, for instance - clinging to its tree despite wind and storm. You know, that makes me think that courage and tenacity are about the greatest values a man can have. Suddenly my old confidence is back and I know things aren't half as bad as I make them out to be. Suddenly I know that with the strength of his convictions a man can move mountains, and I can proceed with full confidence in the basic goodness of my fellow man. I know that now. I know it." ~ End of Act I in the musical You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

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