He knew how it was supposed to happen. He'd dreamt about it, fantasized about it for years, from the earliest days he could remember, when he'd sit at his father's side and trace the pale outlines of the faded scar on his father's arm. The Dark Lord was dead, then, and the Death Eaters were disbanded, and any thought Draco had of joining his father in the ranks was nothing but imagination and wishes. Still, he knew how it was supposed to happen.
He'd wear robes made of velvet and silk. Black trousers beneath outer robes that shimmered like the midnight sky in the coldest winter. Inner robes of viridian green, marbled with cobalt, the colors shifting like a stream as he moved. A crisp white shirt, made without seam or fastening, of the lightest fairy-spun silk. A heavy platinum ring, engraved with the Malfoy crest. Boots polished to an obsidian shine. Dressed in his finest, he'd stand between his mother and father, their smiles bright as mirrors, their pride a near-physical force surrounding him.
The others would bow deep, their black robes sweeping the ground before them as he walked over the white flagstones, his shoulders straight and his head high. He would approach the Dark Lord and bow. He would lower to one knee, push up his sleeve, and take the Mark. He would be set apart as special, as worthy, and he would bear the symbol that only the rare and chosen few could aspire to. He would be taken into the ranks, welcomed into the brotherhood, and his mother would press a lace handkerchief to her eyes as she wept with joy. His father would extend one hand, assist him up, and clasp his shoulders, grey eyes gleaming with pride and satisfaction.
They would turn and face the others, the small group of those who knew, who understood the importance of purity and blood, and the cheers would be deafening. The roars of approval would shake the sky.
He knew it was supposed to happen that way. Pride and glory and honor, and a banquet at the end, with his Mark fresh and gleaming.
Then the Dark Lord returned.
Then his father failed.
He couldn't quite remember what had happened, sometimes. Sometimes he thought he didn't want to remember. That portion of his memory was shrouded with fog, like he was standing on the bank of the stream that ran through the Manor's grounds. A chill in his breath made it emerge silver and iced, with the swirling mist around his legs floating up to dance around his body every time he moved. When he closed his eyes to try and remember what had been done to him that shivering morning in July, all he saw was the fog. When he was awake, when he couldn't remember, he was grateful for that shielding mist.
His dreams remembered for him.
He was ripped from sleep, hauled from his bed in the grey light before the sun rose. They bound his arms behind his back, clenched their hands on his biceps. Draco struggled and screamed with impotent rage as two hooded men in black robes dragged him through the corridors of the Manor. His mother's shrieks echoed off the stone walls and he saw her locked in the grip of a tall figure in the same black robes. She fought and clawed into the depths of the hood. A deep voice cursed and the figure shoved her away, threw her against the wall where her head hit with a crack. Draco howled as she crumpled at the base of the wall, dark splotches of blood on her temple, staining her long blond strands.
The men holding him laughed and they pulled him from the house, across the wide lawn, and past the wards that protected his family and home. Draco gagged as the pinching twist of Apparition boiled in his gut, and he landed on his side in cold grass. One man grabbed his hair and hauled him upright, forced him onto his knees. The other flicked a wand and left him naked, his pyjamas unweaving, unraveling, into thin cotton threads piled around his shins and feet.
Black robes approached him and he looked up, shaking, into the red, cold eyes of the Dark Lord. Lipless mouth, noseless face, heartless glare. The Dark Lord gestured, and the ropes fell from Draco's arms. Before he could move, the men grabbed him, silent except for the rustle of their robes. One of his abductors held his right arm behind him, twisted up between his shoulders. The other grabbed his left wrist and yanked his arm up and out, wrenching his shoulder in its socket. Thin and shivering and naked before the Dark Lord, Draco bit the inside of his cheek to ribbons as the wandtip touched to his forearm.
He thought he had known pain, but that was before. Before, before. Everything in his life to that point was before. Before the first of July, 1996. Before the chill of dawn. Before the pain.
The Dark magic seared through him, flames and pain and knives dancing along the insides of his veins. He crouched on the ground, clutching at the grass until the blades cut into his hands like swords, and he screamed. He screamed his throat raw, blood flecking his lips and dripping from his nose, and he could smell his flesh burning. Green flames burning through his skin, through the muscle, down to bone. He'd seen the dull white glimmer of bone in his arm before the flames had taken over and he'd screamed again. Screamed again and again and again until his voice cracked and broke and the only sound he could make was weak, pathetic whimpering.
The fires burst deep into him, the snake and skull burned black, and he was Marked, made one of them. As the Dark Lord laughed and the others jeered, Draco cowered on his knees and wept. The men left in pops of Apparition, the Dark Lord vanished in a swirl of black smoke, and Draco clutched his arm to his chest, blood and tears mingling on his skin. He was not a brother, welcomed into the ranks. He was not special, he was not honored. There was no glory in the blood that dripped from his arm into the dirt. There was no pride in the tears that streaked his cheeks and dropped off his jaw to splatter across his bare thighs. This wasn't how it was supposed to happen.
He knew how it was supposed to happen.