Draco was a wreck.
They had returned to Malfoy Manor approximately twenty minutes ago and upon arrival Snape practically threw him into the nearest room, telling Draco that he would fetch his mother and not to move from that spot. It was a mark of how frightened the young Malfoy was that he did not object to Snape ordering him around in his own house. Draco was relieved that he didn't end up killing Dumbledore, but that relief was being overshadowed rapidly by the thought of facing the Dark Lord.
As much as he tried to deny it, his impossible mission was given to him not because of Voldemort's faith in him like he led everyone else to believe—but to punish his father. To punish Lucius for failing to retrieve the prophecy and allowing himself to be captured. Now that Snape had killed Dumbledore, Draco wasn't sure what Voldemort would do. The mission in general was successful, but his personal orders had not been carried out. Draco had seen firsthand how the Dark Lord treated those who disobeyed, and his knees almost gave out at the thought of it happening to him.
The door burst open and Draco's heart stopped for a few seconds as he imagined the slender man with menacing red eyes come barreling towards him; intent to kill. Fortunately, it was only his mother, looking very frazzled but nonetheless alive. Seeing her broke his stunned silence.
"I—I didn't . . . I didn't do it," he sobbed, unable to stop himself from shaking. "I failed!"
Tears fell down Narcissa's face and she pulled Draco towards her, wrapping her arms around him like her life depended on it.
"H-he's g-going to k-kill me," Draco cried, a few tears sliding down his pale face. "A-and nothing w-will st-stop him f-from killing you!"
"Shhhh," Narcissa whispered soothingly. She ran her fingers through her son's hair and rubbed his back in an attempt to calm him down. "You m-must stop crying. He'll send for you soon." Draco clenched his eyes shut to stall the flow of tears and took deep, shaky breaths. Within minutes he had detached himself from his emotions sufficiently and pulled away from his mother to smooth out the creases in his suit.
His mother withdrew a handkerchief and fervently dabbed at his face. Normally, Draco would have pushed her away but he simply leaned into her touch, aware that these could very well be his last moments with her.
In five minutes time Draco looked decently presentable and he greeted Snape's entrance with an indifferent expression.
"The Dark Lord will see you now," the man began. "And you as well, Narcissa." Draco nodded and the two of them followed Snape out of the living room into the hallway. At the doorway, Snape hesitated for a moment before placing a hand on Draco's shoulder and grasped it gently but firmly. "The Dark Lord is angry, yes—but he will not kill you," he whispered in the kindest tone Draco had ever heard him use. Before the boy could say or do anything however, Snape let go of his shoulder and continued on his way, acting as if he barely noticed they were there.
With each echoing step towards their destination, Draco grew more and more convinced that yes, he would die. Keeping him alive would serve no purpose for the Dark Lord. All he wished was for the chance to plead for his parent's lives. They didn't deserve to die for his cowardice. Any other Slytherin would have followed through with those instructions without any complaint but he had failed. In fact, death seemed almost welcome. He wasn't fit to be called a Slytherin, with his sobbing episodes in the bathroom and having to be comforted by a pitiful ghost. He was so worthless that Dumbledore even took pity on him.
It was for the best.
It seemed like their journey lasted for hours. Finally Snape stopped in front of the library and opened the door, gesturing for them to step inside. Draco noticed that all the other Death Eaters were gathered around in a semicircle and Voldemort was standing somewhat in the middle of them.
"Good evening," the man sneered. "Dumbledore's death should be rather a joyous occasion—don't you agree, Draco?" The young Malfoy wisely kept his mouth shut and stared straight ahead, still unable to look the dark wizard in the eye.
"Though, by the account I have gotten from Severus you have every right to be afraid." Voldemort walked forward. "Why is it that he had to carry out the order I personally gave you?"
"Why did you fail, Draco?" he whispered, leaning in close to the boy's ear. The Malfoy said nothing. Sensing that Voldemort would undoubtedly try to read his mind Draco imagined staring at a white wall, locking his emotions and thoughts away.
"No need to attempt to hide your thoughts from me," Voldemort spat, though he sounded somewhat amused. "I don't need Legilimency to know that you were too weak to carry out my order. Just like your father." The surrounding Death Eaters chuckled heartily and Draco grit his teeth in irritation.
"You do remember what the consequences of your failing were when I first issued the assignment, yes?" the Dark Lord continued, returning to where he was when they arrived. He trained his wand on Draco and the young Malfoy felt his resolve break.
"B-but I got them into the castle!" he protested before he could stop himself.
"An impressive feat I admit, but I have no use for weak followers," Voldemort said. His wand was still pointed at Draco's chest and the courage that he had built to face his death was slowly ebbing away.
"However—" Voldemort said after a long pause, "I will show you mercy and spare your life for now." Draco struggled to not show the intense relief he felt at those words.
"Thank you, my Lord," he said quickly, not wishing to incur his anger. He added a small bow for good measure. "You—"
"But you will receive a punishment," the Dark Lord interrupted. "I cannot permit disobedience from those within my Inner Ring." He peered at Draco for a calculating moment, obviously enjoying the control the boy was obviously struggling to keep. "The Cruciatus Curse should be sufficient."
Draco knew he should have expected nothing less, but the thought still made his blood cold. While preparing him for his mission, Bellatrix had offered to give him a small taste of the curse, and it was obvious she was itching to use it. He had firmly protested against her suggestion, but that didn't stop her from trying. She had succeeded in using it on him for a few seconds (having taken him off guard when he left to go to his room) but Narcissa had intervened. She actually slapped Bellatrix across the face, surprising her sister so much that she dropped her wand on their velvet carpet. His aunt left in a huff, but not before praising her sister for getting some backbone.
As the boy braced himself for the agonizing torment he knew would follow, Voldemort laughed. "Why so tense, Draco? I won't be using the curse against you." When Draco stared in confusion, the Dark Lord inclined his head towards someone behind Draco.
"Your mother will."
Narcissa gasped in shock as Draco whipped around to face her. She was looking at Voldemort with sheer terror with her hands covering her mouth. "M-m-my Lord . . . I c-couldn't . . . why—"
"Because if you don't I will kill him myself," he responded irritably. "He failed you, didn't he? With your life and safety hanging in the balance he was unable to carry out the order. You should be angry with him, Narcissa."
Mrs. Malfoy glanced at her son in fear and then at Voldemort once more, her eyes pleading for him to reconsider. "I-I . . . I—"
"Just do it, mother!" Draco's voice was harsh, but as he faced her he did his best to try and reassure her with his eyes. Realizing she had no choice, Narcissa stepped forward to where Voldemort was and raised a trembling wand to her son.
"You will stop when I say so." Voldemort's order was followed with quiet yet excitable chatter from among the other Death Eaters. It was obvious they found everything quite entertaining.
Draco gasped as he felt the wind knocked out of him and his arm burned as if someone had taken a fireplace poker and pressed it against his skin. However painful it was, Malfoy knew it didn't hurt as much as it should have. "DO IT!" he yelled. His mother should know he wouldn't hold it against her. That he would thank her for sparing his life even if it mean in exchange he had to endure the curse.
The resulting pain caused Draco to fall to his knees. His lip started to bleed as he bit down, trying not to scream; if not for the enjoyment of those surrounding him, but for his mother's peace of mind. After a few minutes it became too great and he let out an agonizing scream. Malfoy did his best to fight back the pain by knowing it would all be over soon, but as minute after minute passed he wondered just how long Voldemort wanted him to suffer for. Would the Dark Lord force Narcissa to torture him into insanity?
Voldemort and the Death Eaters watched in fascination as Draco writhed in pain at their feet. Many wondered how long it would take until the boy broke down completely.
"That's enough." Narcissa dropped her wand immediately and rushed to her son's side. Draco struggled for a moment but was unable to move. When his mother helped push him into a seated position, Draco flashed her a weak smile before his eyes rolled into the back of his head and he passed out. Narcissa gripped Draco's shoulders so tightly that her nails left deep grooves in his skin, but she did not cry out. Her mind was too numb at the moment to process any emotions.
"Well done, Narcissa," Voldemort sneered. "Couldn't have done it better myself."
The boy in question awoke to a light slap across the face and when he opened his eyes he saw Ron standing over him, absolute worry etched in his expression.
"You were screaming in your sleep again," the Weasley said sadly. "Was it something Voldemort did, or is it . . . well, because of—" His face reddened and Harry knew who Ron was referring to.
"No, not Dumbledore," Harry sighed. His bed sheets weren't entangling him as much as they normally would have, but his sweaty shirt was sticking to him and his throat felt sore.
"You were screaming Draco's name," the redhead continued, clearly puzzled. "If it doesn't have anything to do with Dumbledore, then what—"
"He was being tortured."
Ron stared at him. "What?"
Harry rubbed his forehead as if he had a headache. Even now Malfoy's screams reverberated in his skull and he couldn't get rid of the image of Narcissa's terrified expression as she stared at her son.
"Voldemort had his mother use the Cruciatus Curse on him—because he didn't kill Dumbledore." Ron looked at Harry in disbelief.
"W-well . . . he did try to kill Dumbledore . . . and he's a git, so—"
"He passed out!" Harry snapped, the anger he felt at what he saw still not fully abated. "If you've ever had it used against you, then you'd know how horrible it is!"
"But you've always hated him!" Ron protested. "This whole year you've been trying to convince us that—"
"I still do! But that doesn't mean he deserved it." Harry glanced at his bed sheets. "No mother should have to torture their own child like that." Harry looked up at Ron and saw a flicker of horror as he obviously imagined what it would be like for his mother to have to do that.
"He really didn't want to do it, you know," Harry said quietly. "In the tower with Dumbledore. He was lowering his wand when the others stepped in. Dumbledore offered him protection and I think he would have taken it." There was silence for a moment before Ron returned to his bed.
"He's still a git."