His room had never felt so cold as it did now. Warming charms seemed to have no effect on the bed he lay in, the blankets stale and chilly as if the freeze that had taken over his room was determined to stifle any comfort that he could have found in his bed. Memories of when Malfoy Manor had been warm and welcoming were far in the past now, leaving Draco to lay under blankets and stare at the ceiling, looking for respite in the cracked surface above him.
It was eerily quiet that spring evening. There was not a sound from outside Draco’s window, as if the birds had avoided Malfoy Manor in fear of dying in the aura of gloom and fear that seemed to almost permeate from it’s old, generational walls. The peacocks that Father had once loved had created a generous perimeter around the estate, and through Draco’s bedroom window, they almost seemed like the barrier between freedom-promising fresh air, and eternal death.
Draco would often stare out past the peacocks, as if searching for a sign of some sort. He often wondered how Potter was fairing, on the run with a heavy price upon his head. Not that he cared whether the Gryffindor survived or not, but simply because the speckled git had become somewhat of a beacon of hope; the only chance that Voldemort could be defeated was in the hands of Saint Potter, and as much as Draco couldn’t stand his fellow classmate, he could do nothing but hope for the end of such madness that had grasped the wizarding world with such a firm grip.
Sometimes he would wonder how his friends were faring, back at Hogwarts, on their own battlefield of sorts. Draco had heard rumors that it had changed. Gone was the yellow orange lighting and comforting warmth that once used to decorate the halls of the wizarding school Draco had come to love. He had heard it was now nothing more than a cold place, with frigid winds and echoes of horrid things down portrait-less corridors. Not unlike what Malfoy Manor had become.
Draco was quickly brought out of his thoughts and reminiscing to the sound of an apparition “pop,” followed by shrieks and the thumps that seemed to be coming from the sitting room a floor below. The Malfoy heir quickly sat up in bed, heart thumping as quickly as one does when terror rushes through the bloodstream.
He strained his ear, listening for the telltale signs of high-pitched laughter, or Parseltongue filling the room downstairs with harsh hisses that never failed to rake shivers down Draco’s spine.
What if it was Potter that Voldemort had brought home this time? What if it was all over, and hope left to be distinguished in the wake of Potter’s now inevitable death? Draco strained to hear noises upon his sitting position, trying to listen for shrieks of victory-
A sudden rapping of knuckles on his bedroom door caused him to flinch, jumping as the harsh ball of fear lodged itself forcefully into his throat. He could feel his rapid heartbeat in his fingers, now gripping the sheets as he answered with a strained, “Come in.”
The door opened to reveal Wormtail, a disgusting man of small stature and even smaller significance to the Dark Lord. He was hunched in around himself, as if he was a dog being scolded for eating the upholstery on a new piece of furnishing.
“The Dark Lord requires your presence,” said Wormtail, briefly glancing up at Draco before quickly looking to the ground once more, grimacing in fear and baring his rat-like teeth.
Draco’s heartbeat stuttered at the words, the feeling of ice cold water sliding horridly down his back. It was never good to be summoned by the Dark Lord, no matter who you were or what your blood status was. Draco’s mind quickly reminded him of the danger being in the Dark Lord’s presence possessed, especially in light of his obvious distaste for the Malfoy family.
As if his body was working against him, Draco slowly got out of his bed, sockless feet touching the cold floor. He jerked his feet into the slippers beside his bed before heading to the doorway, legs stiffly moving on his way out of his bedroom. Wormtail scurried away, rushing down the grand stairs and shuffling into the sitting room that was currently obscured from Draco’s view in the hallway.
He followed Wormtail’s path with much less energy, walking slowly down the stairs as if in a funeral procession towards the sitting room. The moans and whimpers were getting louder and louder now, as Draco approached the room in which he assumed the Dark Lord waited. He almost wanted to cup his hands over his ears; drown out the sounds of such pitiful people. Draco did not know whether they were muggle or not, whether they would be someone he knew or not. In pain, humans all sounded the same, much different than what his father had taught him.
Without another moment’s delay, Draco Malfoy turned the corner and found himself in the sitting room with a scene familiar to the household now, yet equally as horrifying as the numerous times Draco had seen it previously.
In front of the unlit stone fireplace that used to spread warmth throughout the room, kneeled a group of what seemed to be muggles, based on the way they were dressed with sneakers and jeans. They consisted of one man and two women, each of them with an identical look of fear plastered on their faces. Draco quickly looked away; he had seen this scene many times. He knew what was to come next.
In the two armchairs near the fire sat Draco’s Mother and Father, having been sat there by the Dark Lord, to watch as Draco had to watch the slaughter of other humans. His mother, Narcissa Malfoy, sat in her chair, uncharacteristically stoic. It was obvious her mask had fallen into place as it always did when she found herself in situations such as this. To show any fear in the presence of the Dark Lord was to commit yourself to certain death. Her face was void of all emotions, but her knuckles were snow white in their clutch against the arms of her chair, letting Draco know just how scared his mother actually was.
His father sat ramrod straight, back pressed up against the chair as if it was holding him up from curling and crumbling in on himself. The patriarch of the Malfoy inheritance had a look and a smile on his face that spoke of not only fear, but humiliation and hopelessness. The smile was unsteady at best, and his eyes refused to look at Draco, as if he had done something too shameful to admit.
And then there was the Dark Lord, standing to the side in the sitting room, one pale hand resting spider like on the wings of Lucius's armchair. The dangerous red eyes, resembling that of a snake, peered at the three muggles cowering in front of the empty, cold fireplace. The man did not acknowledge Draco as he entered the room, and silence hung restlessly in the air as Draco waited for the Dark Lord to give him his orders.
The times in the past that Draco had come upon this scene in his living room, he had been ordered to pull up a chair and watch as the muggles, sometimes blood traitors, were tortured to insanity, and soon after, tortured to death. The Dark Lord allowed the Malfoy heir to look away if he was “too weak to witness true power”, but one rule had always stood: There would be no covering of the ears, for hearing the screams of the ones who wronged them was like music to a loyal Death Eater’s ears. To cover one’s ears would be to align with Potter himself, and death would come to you as slowly and as painfully as the muggles experienced.
Draco glanced away from the Dark Lord for an instant, looking for the chair in which he would be sitting in, as he always did when the Dark Lord demanded his presence during these sessions. However, the chairs seemed to have been cleared out, the only two available ones currently occupied by Draco’s parents.
“Draco,” a chilling voice pierced the uneasy silence, and he immediately responded to the voice of his ever-persistent nightmares, straightening his back and snapping his head to meet the Dark Lord’s, but never making eye contact with the crimson pools and slit-black pupils.
“My Lord,” Draco replied, swallowing in attempt to rid the harsh ball of fear that had lodged itself tightly in his throat. There was something different in the way the Dark Lord had spoken his name, something so deep within it that Draco had to clasp his hands behind his back, in order to hide the obvious shaking of his pale hands. His body was registering the danger he was in with an acute sense, leaving his brain to wonder just what fate for him was hidden in the way the man had said his name.
“Lucius here has told me some very interesting things about you, Draco,” the Dark Lord crooned, and Draco knew those eyes were boring into him as if wishing to peer into his every thoughts. The young Malfoy did not return the stare, instead flickering his gaze towards his mother, whose eyes were glittering with tears held in for some reason Draco was sure to soon find out.
Lucius coughed in a strained manor, throat rasping as the Dark Lord mentioned his name and blamed him for the trouble that would soon befall Draco. What had his father done to make the Dark Lord prepare something as this? It was becoming harder and harder to breathe, each inhale almost individually aware of its importance and possible short life; each breath wondering if it would be the last.
“What did he say, my Lord?” Draco managed to say, voice catching around the ball of fear in his throat. His father was looking to the floor in something that seemed almost guilt-like, and he felt his stomach drop to his toes; if his father was feeling bad for damning Draco, then his life could easily be at the mercy of the Dark Lord’s musings.
“He told me you are exceptionally good at curses and spells, you see,” the Dark lord explained in such a sugar-filled way, sending a chill throughout the room that reverberated in Draco’s very bones. “Why you never mentioned this in our previous sessions is a mystery to me. Surely you’ve been wanting to try your hand at practicing on muggles, haven’t you?”
Draco lost all feelings to his fingers. From the chill or the strength at which he was clasping them behind his back, he did not know. He was too paralyzed by the man’s words that he could not care why the loss of feeling in his hands had occurred.
His brain screamed at him to move his mouth, to say something before the Dark Lord decided he had gone weak and expendable.
“Y-yes my Lord, I have b-been wanting to try on m-muggles,” Draco barely managed to speak. He could not move his gaze away from the Dark Lord’s shoulder, frozen in shock and eyes wide in terror of what he now knew was to come next. A quiet hiccup, much like the inhale of a sob, came from his mother sitting in her chair. The Dark Lord gripped Lucius’s chair harder for a moment before releasing it, now swiftly moving towards Draco in his elegant cloak, seemingly ghost like as the black material kissed the manor floor and imitated the illusion of angelic grace. Yet the Dark Lord was anything but an angel.
Draco flinched as the man swooped around him, grasping his shoulders lightly from behind. The Dark Lord leaned forward, breath cold on his neck and a grin of malice on his face as he squeezed the Malfoy’s heir in threatening encouragement. Draco unclasped his hands from behind his back, bringing them to his sides in an effort to seem calm and collected. He could not show the man just how full of fear he was in that moment.
“Well? Do you have your wand, Draco?” the Dark Lord asked, long, thin thumbs moving roughly in what could be considered an attempt at a caress. Another hiccup sounded from his mother’s chair, and Draco reached into his pocket with trembling hands, pulling his wand out with a twitch of jittering fingers.
“Good, good,” the Dark Lord goaded on, squeezing Draco’s shoulders and digging his long, ghastly fingernails into Draco’s pale skin. The man then leaned in, mouth now close against Draco’s ear, as if a lover about to whisper a secret only meant for the two to share. “Now do it.”
Draco’s bottom lip began to tremble as he lifted his wand arm, uncontrollably trembling to a point where there was no hoping to hide it. Narcissa hiccuped yet again, and the muggles shrieked in terror. They may not have understood what exactly was going on, and what the stick in Draco’s hand could do, but they were not stupid to know that pain would very soon be upon them. This fact alone made Draco want to puke the dinner he had been served a few hours before.
And yet, his family was at stake. His father had finally crumbled in his chair, his back no longer pressed up against the seat in a fake air of confidence. His mother, tears silently rolling down her cheeks as she tried to hold in her sobbing. They were at stake, he was at stake, and he had no other option.
“ Crucio !”
There were screams as Draco had never heard them. The muggles writhed on the floor, clawing at their heads and stomachs as if the pain was coming from the inside. They shrieked, screaming for mercy and their parents and loved ones, and Draco’s arm trembled even more as the screams pierced the silence in the sitting room.
“ Crucio! ”
The screams were louder and salty tears were now streaming down his cheeks, unable to hold them back any longer. Wrecked sobs left him, barely audible in competition to the blood-curdling screams emanating from the people before him, lips trembling to the beat of his own thundering heart. They reminded him of times past, faces in pain that he had forgotten, but that would never forget him.
Their screams seemed to resonate deep in his skull, pulling him deeper and deeper into the dark pit of fear. His sobs became louder, and he could hear them in his ears, and yet the screaming of the muggles rose above any other sound that could possibly have been made in that moment.
“ C-CRUCIO !”
Somewhere in the distance, far away from Draco’s fastly approaching loss of sanity, was high pitched laughter. He couldn’t tell whether it was in jest of the muggle’s pain, or his own.
As the screams increased, Draco squeezed his eyes shut, tears streaming out of them as he tried to shield himself from the image before him. Anything he could do to stop the image from burning itself into his mind for the rest of his life, however long it ended up being.
“LOOK AT THEM!” screeched the Dark Lord, grasping Draco’s shoulders violently and scaring his eyes wide open once more.
To the Dark Lord’s orders, Draco kept his eyes open, watching in terror as the muggles writhed on the ground in immense pain. And yet their faces all looked the same; a woman, suspended helplessly in the air, ex-Muggle studies professor from Hogwarts, pleading for help to only die quickly in a flash of green. Such a quick, easy, painless way to die. Unlike these muggles, whose fate was to be tortured to death; to die from never ending pain.
Draco wished he could possess an inkling of the Gryffindor courage that any of his classmates possessed. Any of the self-righteousness that Harry Potter had in abundance. Yet Draco did not have courage. He could not turn around and fight the Dark Lord, did not have courage to save the muggles and run off with them to live on the run. Instead, he did the only thing he could do, to stop their pain, to end his suffering.
“ Avada Kedavra !”
A scream emanated from Narcissa’s chair as the flash of green light lit up the room, and then dissipated as quickly as it had appeared. Eerie silence followed, the screams having been stopped as if one had turned everything to mute. Draco froze in the place he was in, arm still outstretched, wand still pointing at the now-dead carcasses. His eyes grew wide as his mind slowly registered what he had done: murder.
“How… disappointing.” the Dark Lord hissed, letting go of Draco’s shoulders as if the boy had burned him in a deep offense. Draco still did not yet move, paralyzed as the tears quietly traveled down his already tear-tracked face. It almost felt as if he had stopped breathing, no longer aware of breath that he had stolen from another so bloody easily.
He was barely aware of Lord Voldemort ordering him away with disgust in his voice, eyes trained down his wand arm still as the Dark Mark on his left forearm felt a phantom sense of pain.
Draco turned from the sitting room and traveled stiffly back up the stairs, green flashes of light now ingrained in his vision. The word murder flashed in his mind over and over, and he almost began to miss the screams, because the screams meant that they were still alive for now. But the coward’s way out was to kill them, to end their misery. He could have been doing them a service, ending their lives sooner than dying to the feeling of endless, excruciating pain.
One could make such an argument. But as Draco entered his bedroom in choppy steps, deposited his slippers carelessly on the ground, and collapsed on his bed, the sheets felt like a comforting extension of himself now; cold and empty.