maxine_chan: (HP - HarryDraco paint by Sherant)
Maxine ([personal profile] maxine_chan) wrote2011-10-28 09:38 pm
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FIC: All the Answers - Chapter 23, part 1

Welcome to the longest chapter of Answers so far! :D

Title: All the Answers
Fandom: Harry Potter
Rating: NC-17
Pairing: Harry/Draco
Word Count: 12,900
Disclaimer: It's not mine. JKR is the brilliant mind behind HP.
Notes: This is a post-HBP 7th year fic that is not compliant with Deathly Hallows at all. Many, many thanks to my awesome beta, [ profile] lksnarry1!
Summary: Horcruxes, former enemies showing up out of nowhere, and the usual teenage drama on top of it all - Harry isn't sure how he's ever going to make it through all this. But since when has conquering evil ever been easy?

--> All chapters can be found here. <--

previous chapter

~~Chapter 23~~

Over the course of the next month, while Hermione took charge of brewing the Polyjuice Potion, Draco took it upon himself to make sure Ron could adequately fake being under the Imperius Curse. They practiced up in the attic of Grimmauld Place, because it gave them more space than any of the bedrooms and was well out of the way of prying eyes and nosy ears. Draco ran Ron through every likely scenario he could think of, as well as quite a few Ron was sure would never come up.

“You-Know-Who isn’t going to make me spit-shine your boots, Malfoy.”

“You don’t know that, Weasley, maybe the thought of it would amuse him.”

They practiced every day, and when they weren’t doing that they were going over the details of the plan – or lack thereof, really. They tried mapping out exactly what they wanted to do, but not knowing where exactly the Portkey was going to take them was becoming more problematic by the day. Hermione had tried calling the whole thing off more than once, but Harry was nothing if not stubborn. As far as he was concerned, this was the only viable step forward they had.

About halfway through the month, Draco suddenly switched things up.

“Okay,” he said, lowering his wand from where it had been trained on Ron. “You’re actually doing…not terribly awful, Weasley. I think you might have the hang of it. Now we can move onto other things.”

Ron shared a look with Harry and then raised an eyebrow at Draco. “What other things?”

Draco pointed at Harry. “You need to learn how to act like him.”

“And…that’s necessary, why?” Harry asked, frowning a bit.

“…You must be joking.” Draco looked back and forth between the two in exasperation.

“In case someone tells Draco to lift the curse,” Hermione spoke up from where she was working on the potion. “They have to think you’re Harry.”

Draco nodded. “What Hermione said. It doesn’t have to be a perfect act in this case – just convincing. It’s not as though any of them really know Potter.”

“So…” Ron looked uncertainly at Harry. “How to be Harry after realizing I’ve just been hand delivered to You-Know-Who… I should pretty much get angry right off the bat, yeah?”

“Immediately go for your wand,” Hermione said. “Even though Draco will have it.”

“Say ‘er’ a lot,” Draco added.

Harry scowled. “Funny, Malfoy.”

Draco grinned in an unapologetic sort of way. “Alright, alright. Here, get up, Potter. We’ll do some role-play and Weasley will copy you.”

And that was how they spent the second half of the month while waiting for the potion to finish. By the end of it all, Harry thought he might actually prefer going up against Voldemort rather than listening to Draco bark out order after order. Watching Draco turn Ron into a copy of himself was more than a little surreal, as well. So, he was honestly relieved when, on one cool December morning, there was nothing left to do but finally use Draco’s Portkey.

“If you take more than one dose, it’ll last longer than an hour,” Hermione said, as she hovered nervously near Ron. “Although I still think you should bring some extra with you. There’s no telling how long you’ll have to be there!”

“There’s not exactly an easy way to make that inconspicuous, Hermione,” Ron said patiently, as this was a topic they’d discussed several times already.

“He’s right,” Harry agreed. “We can’t just assume they’re going to trust Malfoy. They might be searched or something.”

Ron nodded. “And having a flask of Polyjuice would be a dead giveaway.”

Hermione frowned. “I know. I know, we been over it a hundred times, I just–” She looked up at Ron, smoothing her hands over his chest. “Oh, be careful,” she said, turning her head to include Harry as well. “Both of you. All of you.”

Around Harry’s knee, Dobby straightened up and puffed out his chest, giving Hermione a quick nod. “Dobby will be making sure Harry Potter and his friends stay safe!”

“Where’s Malfoy, anyway?” Ron asked. “He’s taking bloody forever.”

“I’m here,” Draco said, as he entered the room. Harry’s eyes went wide when he saw him, his breath catching in his throat. Draco was dressed in a one of Harry’s nicer robes, and apparently he’d taken the time to spell the wrinkles out of them. His shoes were shiny, his shirt cuffs perfectly buttoned – he even had on his Slytherin tie. To top it all off, his hair was slicked back in a way it hadn’t been in months.

Harry felt as though he’d taken a wrong step somewhere and slipped through a hole in time, somehow ending up back at Hogwarts. He hadn’t realized just how…comfortable Draco must have gotten around them, because somewhere along the line Harry had gotten used to him wearing a much more casual look. It was weird to see him go back to this utter prat-like appearance, with what could have been a blonde helmet plastered to his head. Harry much preferred the softer, freer way his hair looked when it wasn’t gelled down.

Draco caught him staring and raised an eyebrow.

Hysterical laughter bubbled up in Harry’s chest, but he determinedly squashed it and looked away.

“…Draco!” Hermione said, in a surprised sort of way. Harry was glad he wasn’t the only one who was being thrown off kilter. “My, aren’t you looking…posh.”

“Looking like a ponce, more like,” Ron muttered, and Draco glared at him.

“I have to look the part, alright?” he grumbled, running a hand over his hair.

Harry snorted. “Malfoy, you look like you’ve stepped straight out of fifth year. That’s not a part, that’s just younger you.”

“Well, I always was at the height of fashion and–”

This time it was Hermione who made a sound of choked laughter, and she quickly brought her hands up to cover her mouth. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, it’s just – oh, Draco, I forgot you used to wear your hair like that!” She broke off into more giggles, soon joined by Ron and Harry’s snickering.

Draco flushed a dull pink and rolled his eyes. “Okay, shut up,” he said, crossing his arms and doing his best to appear unaffected. “It’s what my father will expect!”

“Dobby remembers the first time Master Draco tried to wear his hair like that,” Dobby piped up suddenly, and Draco froze. “Except Master Draco wasn’t actually using the right products, Master Draco thought all that was needed was glue to be helping hold his hair together and–”

“You know, we should really be going now!” Draco interrupted loudly, just as the other three burst into unrestrained laughter. “Come on, Weasley, hurry the hell up and drink the bloody potion already!”

“Right, sure,” Ron said, shaking his head and still chuckling. Harry plucked out one of his hairs and dropped it into the cup Ron was holding. They watched as it turned a pure gold color, the same way it had when they’d tested out the potion the day before. “Looks so much better than Crabbe’s,” Ron said, and then he tossed it back and drank until the cup was empty.

The others watched as Ron immediately winced and curled into himself, one hand clutching his stomach while the other slammed against the wall to brace himself. His skin seemed to bubble as it molded itself into Harry’s likeness, and his hair slowly bled from ginger to black.

Ugh,” he said when it was over. “That shit just never gets better.” He squinted at them until Harry stepped forward to hand him a spare pair of glasses. “Thanks, mate. Clothes?”

“On the bed.”

They turned their backs while Ron changed, and when he was finished there were two identical Harry Potters standing side-by-side.

“So weird,” Draco muttered. He pulled out the Portkey.

“Alright,” Hermione said, chewing on her bottom lip. “Good luck. Be safe. Don’t do anything rash. If you think it isn’t going to work, then get out.”

“We’ve got it, Hermione,” Harry said, double checking his pocket to make sure the enchanted galleon was there.

“Don’t worry,” Ron said, reaching out to wrap an arm around Hermione’s waist. “We’ll be back in a flash.” He leaned forward, and Harry’s eyes went wide.

“Whoa!” he exclaimed, sliding forward so that he cut right in between them. “Can you not?? Hello, that’s my body, Ron!” Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed that Draco had taken half a step forward, as well, and he was reaching out an arm like he’d intended to stop them. Draco saw him looking and abruptly dropped his arm and turned away awkwardly.

“Ah – bugger, mate, sorry,” Ron said sheepishly. “Nearly forgot. That would’ve been – weird.” He glanced at Hermione, who just looked amused, and instead planted a quick kiss on her cheek. “Ha, don’t even have to lean down to do it!”

“Yeah, yeah,” Harry said, rolling his eyes. He gave Hermione a quick hug, as well, and then crouched down in front of Dobby. “Up you get, Dobby,” he said, and once the house elf had climbed onto his back, Hermione tossed the Invisibility Cloak over them. “Malfoy? Portkey?”

“It’s here.” Draco held out the wax seal, and both Harry and Ron reached out to touch it. Draco took a deep breath. “We’re all ready? Good. Then here we go.” He muttered something under his breath that Harry thought sounded like Latin, and then abruptly he felt the familiar tug of the Portkey as it whisked them away.

Hermione stared at the spot where they’d been standing for a long moment. Then she released a shaky breath and sat down on the bed to wait.

* * *

The Portkey dropped them off in what appeared to be an antechamber of sorts. There was a shut door in front of them and behind them, and what must have once been white paint was now a dirty, faded brown, peeling off the walls surrounding them. Whatever house they were in, it must have been old. Harry thought he could even spot mold growing in the corners of the room.

He stepped lightly forward, leaning in close to Draco and trying not to startle him. “Not the manor, then?” he breathed, as quietly as he could. Draco gave the tiniest shake of his head and made a slicing gesture in Harry’s direction. Harry took the cue for what it was and shut his mouth, wondering what they should do next.

They weren’t left waiting long, however, and not a minute later they could hear muffled voices and footsteps heading towards the door in front of them. Both Draco and Ron visibly tensed up, and Draco immediately brought his wand up and dug it into the small of Ron’s back, just as the door was thrown open.

“I’m telling you, the wards went off, there’s someone–” The man speaking broke off suddenly, staring blankly at the scene in front of him for a moment, and then his lips curled into a lopsided smirk. “…Here. Well, well. Draco Malfoy. Decided to answer the Dark Lord’s call at last, have you?” He turned to the other person who had walked in with him. “Told you I felt it, Nott.”

“My excitement knows no bounds,” the other man, Nott, said flatly. “Clearly this is why the Dark Lord keeps you around.” He directed a hard look at Draco, one that bordered on suspicious. “Draco.” His eyes drifted over to Ron, slowly eyeing him up and down as if he wasn’t quite sure what exactly he was seeing.

Draco drew himself up to his full height and lifted his chin a bit. “My father gave me a Portkey,” he said, and amazingly he sounded exactly like the snotty brat he’d been at school, utterly sure of himself in that way only Malfoys could be. He was practically talking down his nose at the other two, which was impressive given that he was several inches shorter than Nott was.

“Ha!” the first man burst out. Harry thought he looked familiar, but was having trouble placing him. “Lucius, the stupid wanker. I tell you, he hasn’t been right in the head since they threw him in Azkaban. Giving the kid a Portkey here–”

“He gave it to me so I could complete my task,” Draco snapped, visibly bristling over the insults to his dad. “And where is here, anyway?”

“Eh…” The man idly rubbed beneath his chin with his wand. “Somewhere in Little Hangleton–”

Amycus,” Nott interrupted sharply, but Amycus – of course, Harry remembered now, he’d been on the tower that night – just waved him off.

“Leave off, man, the kid brought us Potter. Must be he’s come to his senses.”

“…I suppose it doesn’t matter,” Nott muttered. “The Dark Lord hardly frequents this place anymore.”

“Yeah, when’s he going to call us all out of here? It’s a fucking sty, I’m bloody well tired of it.”

“Excuse me,” Draco said impatiently. “I have Harry Potter here with me, shouldn’t you be letting someone know?”

Nott gave Ron another slow look. “Hmm.”

Draco shifted his weight. “Well?” he demanded. Harry noticed one of Ron’s hands twitch very faintly, but otherwise he kept his face perfectly blank.

“We’re waiting,” Nott said, and didn’t bother offering any further explanation.

“For what?” Draco asked.

They ignored him. Amycus stepped up close to Ron and peered at him. “Have you got him under the Imperius, then? Heard that was one of your specialties.”

Draco frowned. “Yes,” he said simply. “I hardly think Potter would have come willingly just because I asked politely.”

“I was under the impression Potter could resist that curse,” Nott said casually, and Draco visibly paled. Nott raised an eyebrow. “My son is in your year, if you recall.” The words were delivered in a dry, sarcastic manner, because of course Draco knew – they had shared a dorm room for six years and known each other for half a decade before even that.

“Potter hasn’t had as much practice resisting it as I’ve had using it,” Draco said after a beat, recovering quickly. “And that was years ago. I kept that old bint from the Three Broomsticks under it for months last year. But I had to be sure – why do you think it’s taken me so long to get him here?” Draco fished Harry’s wand out from the sleeve of his robe. “I’ve got his wand.”

“Isn’t that something,” Nott said, still using that infuriating drawl, and then he glanced back over his shoulder and added, “Ah, here we are,” just as Lucius Malfoy came striding through the door.

Harry had to hand it to Draco for not having a stronger reaction to the sight of Lucius. Or any visible reaction at all, for that matter. Even Dobby had gone still as a stone on Harry’s back, barely even breathing, and Harry himself couldn’t help boggling at the man. He was barely a shell of his former self. His hair, long as it had ever been, was unkempt and tangled. His skin had a yellowish tint to it and his eyes were sunken in. There was a wild sort of light in them.

“Draco,” he rasped, stopping just inside the door. “Oh, Draco, I knew you would come. I knew you wouldn’t let me down. This is all we needed; this will restore the Dark Lord’s faith in us! You brought Potter–” He took several steps closer. “Just what the Dark Lord wanted. Yes, yes, everything will be as it was now.”

Draco stared at him. For a long moment, it seemed to be all he could do. Then he blinked and abruptly fell back into character as he let a slow grin grow on his face. “Of course, father,” he said, and Harry actually shivered at the way his voice oozed with pride. “I did exactly as you told me to.”

“Come, come,” Lucius said, backing up toward the door again. “We must present him to the Dark Lord at once.” He spun on his heel, his shabby robe flaring out behind him. “Out of my way, Amycus!”

“Alright, alright, don’t work yourself into a tizzy,” Amycus said, scrambling back out of the way. “He’s not even here, is he?”

“If he’s not, then we’ll call him,” Lucius snarled. “Draco, come!”

Draco didn’t hesitate. He gestured with his wand after his father and muttered, “Follow him,” to Ron. Ron did so, walking along as if in a dreamlike trance. Draco trailed behind, his eyes flicking to the side just once before focusing straight ahead again. Harry didn’t miss the look, but it didn’t matter – this was where they were going to split up. From the sound of it, however, Voldemort was actually somewhere else, which kind of put a damper on that particular plan. If he wasn’t there, then it was likely Nagini wasn’t either.

Still, that didn’t mean Harry couldn’t do some detective work, and there was still the shield to consider. He waited until Amycus and Nott had filed out behind the others, and then he quickly slipped out the door before it shut and headed off the opposite way down the corridor.

* * *

Lucius led them to a large parlor that was only slightly less worn down than the room they had just been in. There was a fireplace at one end, beside which sat a large, high back chair made from overwrought iron. It looked uncomfortable, but Draco could easily picture the Dark Lord sitting there, fancying himself king of the entire Wizarding world while Muggles lay dying at his feet. It was a disturbing image and Draco quickly shoved it from his mind.

“Is Aunt Bellatrix here, father?” he asked instead, careful not to let any distaste show when he said her name.

Lucius scowled. “No, she’s been given a placement higher than this hellhole, though one that she hardly deserves.”

That seemed to be a sensitive subject. Draco’s brow furrowed. “Is she with the Dark Lord?”

“I think she would never again leave his side, if given the option,” Lucius said. “And she’s welcome there, a fact she never hesitates to flaunt in my face when we meet. I’ve been left here with these worthless idiots, and meanwhile she’s all but taken over the–” He abruptly cut himself off as Nott and Amycus entered the room, glowering at them all the while. Draco noticed that Nott walked with a bit of a limp, and could vaguely recall Theo saying something about his dad being injured in that whole Ministry debacle.

So, these were the ‘left behind’ Death Eaters, then. He wondered who else had gotten tossed aside by the Dark Lord.

“I guess Professor Snape isn’t here either, then?” Draco asked.

“No,” Lucius said in a low, angry tone. “He’s also at the manor.”

Draco’s eyes widened. “The–?”

“This is really Harry Potter, correct?” Lucius interrupted swiftly. He peered closely at Weasley’s face, like Amycus had. Draco almost felt bad for the bloke, but he was admittedly doing a fantastic job of not flinching away. “We can’t have any mistakes now, Draco, you understand.”

“It’s him,” Draco said. “Scar and all.” He lifted his wand and pointed it at Weasley. “Tell my father who you are and show him your scar.”

Weasley gave the older man a slow blink. “Harry James Potter,” he said mechanically, and he lifted a hand to brush the fringe off his forehead.

Draco thought his father might explode from barely contained joy as he stared eagerly at Weasley. “Wonderful,” he whispered. “Perfect. I’m going to call the Dark Lord.” He rolled up the sleeve on his left arm, but paused when Nott called out to him.

“Lucius,” the other man said. “I understand your need to make haste, but I think it would prove beneficial to everyone if we take care to be absolutely certain your son isn’t trying to trick us.”

Lucius whipped around to glare at Nott. “You doubt him?” he hissed.

Nott appeared to be unaffected by Lucius’ attitude. “I’m merely curious as to how he did it,” he said. He raised his eyebrows as he stared down at Draco. “It certainly took him long enough.”

“I had to gain his trust, didn’t I?” Draco said, going for an affronted sort of tone.

“Draco, you don’t have to explain yourself to this–”

“No, father, it’s alright. I’ve nothing to hide.” Draco turned around so that he was looking at Harry – Weasley – when he spoke. “The Dark Lord is smart, of course,” he said, reaching back and trying to remember how Harry had worded it all those weeks ago. “He knew exactly how Dumbledore’s mind worked, and Potter here isn’t too different. They’re all about second chances.” He sneered as he said it, and didn’t miss the slight twitch of Weasley’s mouth. Quickly, he spun around to face the others. “I only had to pretend that I wanted out of all this and needed help doing so. Potter’s hero complex took care of the rest.”

“And this required six months of your time?” Nott asked. “The Dark Lord isn’t exactly known for his patience, I’m sure you’ve realized.”

“You’ll be lucky if he doesn’t kill you anyway, Potter or no,” Amycus added. “He’s been in a right foul mood as of late.”

Draco swallowed. Lucius’ hand clenched into a fist. “That’s not going to happen,” he growled.

Nott merely tipped his head in a very ‘if you say so’ sort of way.

Draco drew in a shuddering breath. “It required time because of where Potter’s been living,” he explained. “His Muggle family had some sort of – blood protection charm over the house. After that we were with the Weasleys.” He grimaced for effect. “I could hardly get him out of there without causing mass panic. There were always loads of the blood traitors surrounding him at any given moment.”

“Arthur Weasley’s home was destroyed two months ago,” Nott said. “No one knows where they’ve disappeared to, along with half of the rest of their precious Order.”

Draco hesitated, but only briefly. “That’s because their headquarters is under the Fidelius Charm. And before you ask, no, I don’t know who the Secret Keeper is. I was only given a piece of paper that explained how to get in.”

That actually seemed to startle Nott a bit, and Amycus let out a low whistle. “They actually let you in? Cor, what a bunch of mindless arseholes. Can’t get much more daft than that.”

“Like I said, I had to gain their trust,” Draco said impatiently.

“How exactly did you do that?” Lucius asked. His hand was hovering over his Dark Mark. Draco tried not to fidget nervously.

“I befriended the whole lot of them,” he said. “Potter, his Mudblood, Weasley. I–” Draco attempted to make it look like saying this pained him. “I said I’d help their side.”

Amycus snickered. “And those do-gooder fools fell for it, of course. He’s right, that’s exactly the sort of thing old Dumby would’ve done.”

“Pathetic,” Lucius said.

Nott crossed his arms over his chest. “You seem to have your story in order, at least. Very well, Lucius, you might as well call him.”

“Your permission is unnecessary,” Lucius said testily. His hand remained in the air above his Dark Mark for a moment longer, and then a determined look came over his face and he pressed his fingers against the inky black skull.

* * *

Harry crept carefully along the hallway, peeking into every room he came across that had an open door. There were several more Death Eaters milling about, some Harry thought he recognized but others that were brand new faces. They all seemed to be grumbling to each other, complaining about one thing or another. Harry wondered absently if Snape was here somewhere. He kind of doubted it.

Eventually he made it to a room that was free of other occupants and he stepped inside, quietly pushing the door shut behind him.

Finally, he had a moment to breathe.

Harry let the Invisibility Cloak slip off and pool at his feet while Dobby jumped lightly off his back. “Alright?” he asked softly, and the elf nodded rapidly at him. “How are the wards in this place?”

“They is strong, Harry Potter,” Dobby whispered back. “Dobby can get them down, but it could be taking a little time.”

“Okay…” Harry trailed off, thinking, and he squared his shoulders as he came to a decision. “Right, I’m going to look around some more. See what I can find. Can you keep out of sight while you work on that?”

Dobby nodded again, but he looked concerned. “Harry Potter is going to go off on his own?”

“I can move more quickly this way,” Harry replied. “Don’t worry, I won’t do anything stupid. And I’ll have my cloak on.” He pulled the enchanted galleon out of his pocket. “This is what I’m using to communicate with Ron and Malfoy, remember? Can you – I don’t know, send me some sort of sign when the wards are down? Or almost down, I guess. They noticed when we came in, I’m guessing that probably means they’ll notice when we try to leave.”

Dobby tugged at his ear as he made a considering sound. “Dobby can be making the galleon turn hot when Dobby is almost ready,” he said. “And if Harry Potter is needing Dobby before that, Harry Potter only has to call and Dobby will be there!”

“Brilliant,” Harry said, grinning. “Dobby, I don’t know what we’d do without you.”

“Dobby is happy to help his friends!” Dobby said, looking pleased and slightly embarrassed all at the same time.

“I’m off then,” Harry said, pulling out his wand – or Ron’s, rather – and casting a Disillusionment Charm over himself just to be safe. He bent down to grab his Invisibility Cloak and wrapped it around his shoulders. “Be careful, alright?”

“Only if Harry Potter is,” Dobby quipped. Harry shot him another grin and then pulled the cloak over his head before carefully opening the door so he could slip out.

He only made it a few steps down the hallway before a burning pain sliced through his scar.

* * *

Draco had half hoped the Dark Lord would be too busy to respond to the beck and call of one of his less favored Death Eaters.

Unfortunately, not thirty seconds after his father had summoned him, he appeared in the middle of the room with a loud crack.

He was just as terrifying as Draco remembered, and it was all he could do not to back up several steps or possibly even dive behind the large chair he’d spotted earlier. Beside him, he heard Weasley’s breathing speed up and it took a second for him to remember that this was probably the closest Weasley had ever been to the Dark Lord. As inconspicuously as he could, Draco dug his wand into the other boy’s side and briefly sent a glance his way. Hopefully it looked like he was just trying to keep him under Imperius, when really Draco was just trying to offer him some sort of reassurance that he wasn’t alone here.

Draco frowned. Comforting a Weasley, what the hell had happened to his life?

Crazily enough, though, it worked. Weasley slowly let the tension relax from his muscles, and Draco saw him swallow before pointedly fixing his stare on some random object across the room.

“What do you want, Lucius?” the Dark Lord said, sounding faintly annoyed. Nagini was curled around his feet on the floor, and she lifted her head to flick her tongue in Draco’s direction.

Draco gave the huge snake a somewhat irritated look. Great. Here was the thing Harry was supposed to be going after and yet Harry himself was nowhere to be found. At least, Draco assumed he wasn’t in the room, but then again he had no idea where the hell Harry had taken off to. Bloody Invisibility Cloak...

“I have something I thought would please you, my lord,” Lucius said, taking two long steps forward so that he could kneel at the Dark Lord’s feet.

The Dark Lord looked unimpressed. “Rise,” he said. “What is it?” He hadn’t even bothered to look around the room, Draco noticed. Both Nott and Amycus were kneeling, too, but the Dark Lord hadn’t so much as glanced their way.

Lucius pushed himself to his feet. “Draco,” he said, gesturing for him to come forward. “Bring him here.”

The sound of Draco’s name seemed to finally catch the Dark Lord’s attention. He turned his head slowly until he found Draco standing by the fireplace. “Draco,” he murmured, his red eyes narrowing dangerously.

Draco froze. He knew what had to happen next, what they all expected him to do, but every fiber of his being protested against getting any closer to the Dark Lord. Then Weasley shifted subtly beside him, pressing against the wand Draco was still digging into his side, and Draco released a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding.

Right. No backing out now.

“My lord,” Draco said, quickly moving forward and nearly tripping over his own feet as he fell to his knees in front of the Dark Lord. “My lord, forgive me, I never meant for this to take as long as it did,” he continued in a rush. The words tumbled out of his mouth before he even had a chance to think them over, but he’d been in this situation before. Begging for the Dark Lord’s forgiveness was, unfortunately, something he was used to. It had never helped him in the past, but then again he’d never shown up with Harry Potter before. “It’s taken me this long to gain Potter’s trust; I couldn’t risk answering your summons without him catching on. I wanted to be able to present him to you, as requested.”

There was silence for a long moment. Draco stared resolutely at the floor and tried to keep himself from trembling.

“Leave us,” the Dark Lord said suddenly. Draco nearly looked up at him in confusion but caught himself at the last second. Fuck, seriously, where the hell was Harry? If the Dark Lord tried to kill Weasley or something, there wasn’t going to be much Draco could do to stop him. Nagini slithered forward, winding her way between where Draco’s arms were braced against the ground. She was right there, if only he had time to get his wand out – but he didn’t. He couldn’t, anyway, because his body seemed to have frozen up again.

“My – my lord?” Lucius said uncertainly.

“I said leave us!” the Dark Lord repeated viciously, and Lucius, Amycus, and Nott hurried to do as he said. Lucius hesitated briefly by the door, and the Dark Lord spoke without turning to face him. “Don’t linger, Lucius,” he said in a low tone. “I’d go find Wormtail, if I were you. He could use some help figuring out that map.”

“…As you say, my lord,” Lucius said, his voice shaking a bit. He sent one last look Draco’s way and then left.

Draco focused all of his effort on keeping his breathing steady as he waited for the second round of silence to pass. The Dark Lord hadn’t moved, though Draco wasn’t sure if that was a good sign or not. At least he wasn’t going over to shove his face in Weasley’s like the others had.

“Get up,” the Dark Lord softly, which just made Draco all the more terrified. It was never good when he was being quiet. Still, he got to his feet and tried not to seem overly nervous.

“He’s – he’s under the Imperius, my lord,” Draco said, forcing himself to meet the Dark Lord’s eyes briefly before he bowed his head and quickly thrust his hands out. “His wand.”

The Dark Lord didn’t touch it. “Holly,” he murmured. “Phoenix feather.” He looked at it for a minute longer, and then abruptly his hand lashed out to grasp Draco by the chin. Draco gasped and instinctively tried to flinch away, but the Dark Lord held on tight. “I don’t like being kept waiting,” he said, still using that deceptively soft, silky tone.

“I know – I know, my lord, I’m sorry–!”

“Six months,” the Dark Lord continued. “During which I heard nothing from you. You disappeared completely and don’t think I don’t know exactly what you were doing with them.”

“I didn’t have a choice!” Draco stammered, unconsciously clenching his blackened hand as though he was trying to hide it from the Dark Lord’s sight. “It was the only way I could make them trust me completely, it was only one–”

“Only one?” the Dark Lord repeated, and finally the volume of his voice was starting to rise. “Only one? You insolent little brat, have you any idea how valuable those are to me? Do you know how difficult it is to make only one?!”

“Yes – no – I’m sorry, no, I didn’t know!” Draco fudged, quickly losing track of what he was supposed to be saying as fear consumed him. “I thought – you’re the most powerful wizard – I thought you could–”

“Make more?” the Dark Lord filled in, and when Draco didn’t say anything he gave a low, humorless laugh. “Lucky for you, I can.” He shoved Draco away and he stumbled back. Eyes wide and face pale, he could do nothing but stare at the Dark Lord in horror. The Dark Lord laughed again. “Are you scared, Draco?”

Unable to speak, and not knowing what the correct answer was to that anyway, Draco could only give the tiniest shake of his head.

The Dark Lord raised his wand. “You should be,” he said simply. “CRUCIO!”

Draco crumpled to the floor as a scream ripped its way out of his lungs, his hand gripping Harry’s wand tightly. A half-formed plea ran through his head, something he tried to throw Weasley’s way as well as he could, though he knew the other boy wouldn’t be able to hear it.

He had expected this, after all. He’d known it might be coming. And it didn’t mean their cover was blown.

Don’t move, he thought desperately, praying to all things holy that Weasley fucking stayed put. Don’t move, don’t move, don’t move don’tmovedon’tmove–

* * *

Harry let out a frustrated breath as he ducked into yet another empty room. Did Voldemort have nothing useful going on in this place? Why the hell keep Death Eaters here at all if they were all just sitting on their arses?

He was about five minutes away from turning around and heading back toward wherever Lucius had led Ron and Draco. He knew from the ache in his scar that Voldemort was here by now, and if they were lucky that meant Nagini was, too. The problem now would be getting to her. Harry had tried whispering in Parseltongue in case the snake had decided to leave her master’s side, but she didn’t appear to notice or care. Nor had he heard any hissed words coming from anywhere nearby.

Harry leaned back against the wall and absently rubbed at his forehead. To be honest, he wanted to get to wherever Voldemort was for more reasons than just finding Nagini. The thought of leaving Ron and Draco alone with that madman had Harry on edge. If anything happened to them–

A determined look came over Harry’s face. Right, then. It seemed his part in this was turning out to be somewhat of a waste and his friends were probably in danger. It was far past time to go.

He exited the room, making sure his Invisibility Cloak was still tight around himself, and almost instantly had to flatten his body against the corridor wall as Lucius Malfoy came storming around the corner.

“I should have known this would happen,” he was ranting, hands bunched into fists at his sides.

Behind him, Nott followed at a slightly more leisurely pace. “Amycus had the right of it,” he said calmly, and then added in a more annoyed tone, “For once.”

“But he brought him Potter,” Lucius spat. “He did exactly what the Dark Lord wanted him to!”

“And ignored him for months in the process. Lucius, you know how he hates to be ignored.”

Harry looked down the hall, but no one else was coming. He half wondered where Amycus had disappeared to, but he didn’t have long to dwell on it. Quickly, he fell in step behind the other two, keeping as silent as he could.

“Harry Potter!!” Lucius said again, waving an arm around wildly. “The key to the Dark Lord winning this war is here, right now, unarmed and completely at our mercy and he has the gall to be unhappy about it?!”

Lucius,” Nott hissed, widening his strides to catch up with the other man. “Watch what you say. We don’t need two dead Malfoys tonight.”

Harry very suddenly forgot how to breathe.

He stumbled in the hallway, his shoe scuffing against the ground loud enough to catch the attention of the two men in front of them. They stopped talking and spun around, their wands raised. Harry froze, his heart pounding wildly in his chest. After a moment, Lucius and Nott lowered their wands.

“Probably a rat,” Nott muttered, turning to face front again.

Lucius did, as well. “Not the one we’re looking for, though,” he said, resuming walking down the hall. Harry tried to make sense of things as he forced his feet to move so he could continue following them. Surely Lucius would be more upset if Draco was actually…? Harry swallowed, shoving the thoughts from his head. They were fine. Ron and Draco were perfectly fine.

They took a turn down a hallway Harry hadn’t yet been able to investigate, and Lucius threw open the first door they came across. “Wormtail!” he barked, and a man Harry could barely stomach looking at scuttled out from behind a large table.

“Malfoy!” he squeaked, wringing his hands and his eyes darting around nervously. “What – what are you doing here?”

“The Dark Lord sent us to aid you,” Nott said in a bored tone.

Lucius frowned down at something on the table. “I thought you said you’d made one of these before? It looks as though you’ve barely gotten any further since the last time the Dark Lord asked for an update.”

Harry crept closer as Wormtail bristled. “I’ve gotten further!” he snapped. “It’s a complicated task, you know, and it’s been ages since I was in school there–”

“You were there not three years ago,” Lucius interrupted.

“Please, Lucius,” Nott drawled. “Peter was far too busy sleeping in the Weasley boy’s pocket to have been doing anything useful.”

“Yeah, alright,” Wormtail said. “Let’s see you two try to remember all the secret passageways out of Hogwarts.” Harry’s eyes widened. Wormtail continued in a smug tone, “Oh, that’s right – you didn’t even know they were there!”

Harry inched around Lucius so he could actually get a good look at what they were doing, but he was pretty certain he had a fairly good idea of what this project entailed.

Sure enough, spread out on the table they were all leaning over was what was clearly supposed to be a replica of the Marauder’s Map.

* * *

part 2

You can also read it at Skyehawke.

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