Draco knew there would be punishment for his failure. What he didn't know was why it was taking so bloody long.
He sat in darkness, his hands bound behind him. His wrist ached from the thin, scratchy rope digging into them. His eyes itched and watered from the dust and ash in the small cell. Vaguely he wondered how many people had been burned to create so much ash. He had witnessed at least three executions in the past year. That didn't account for the solid foot of ash that covered the floor, visible in the light squeezing in around the door. It was not a reassuring sight.
How did this even happen? he thought miserably, coughing as he inhaled even more ash. He wriggled his hand, trying to work the rope loose, but only succeeded in scratching the skin even worse, and glared at the door ahead of him.
Oh, yes. How could I forget? Potter. Stupid. Draco kicked at a pile of ash, which proved to be a bad idea when a great cloud of it flew right in his face. He coughed and hacked, cursing under his breath. When his lungs were finally cleared and he could breathe again, he tilted his head back, staring up at the low ceiling. He could see long gouges scratched into the charred wood. He looked away.
A scream from outside shocked him, and he jolted in his seat, nearly tipping the chair. He sat stock-still, his eyes wide as he gasped for breath. His heart was beating faster than a jobberknoll's death wail, and just as loud. He swallowed hard, suddenly finding his mouth dry.
Don't panic. There were plenty of other prisoners. It's not —
Another scream. This time it was unmistakable. Draco felt his heart stop, his eyes watering again, and this time it wasn't because of the ash. He clenched his fists, his teeth digging into his lip so hard he bled.
A choked sob forced its way out as another scream pierced the air, and then slowly quieted to hopeless sobbing. Draco threw himself forward, getting to his knees in front of the door and peering through a small gap between two boards. As he did, he felt a sudden chill, and he gasped as he saw what was happening.
His mother knelt on a dais in the center of the room. Her blond hair hung in limp strands down her back, and her shoulders shook as the other figure standing on the dais grabbed her by the chin and forced her face upwards. In the air above her hovered what was unmistakably a Dementor. Draco watched, frozen in shock, as the Dementor swooped towards his mother, lowering its hood. He could do nothing but watch as his his mother fell, lifeless, to the floor as the Dementor sucked out her soul.
Several things happened within the next few seconds. Draco heard his father cry out from across the room. He was instantly silenced. At the same time, the door to Draco's cell swung open, and he fell on his face, having no way to catch himself. He was grabbed by his hair and hauled up the dais before being shoved to his knees.
"Draco! How nice of you to join us!"
It was hard for Draco to see, but the sound of his aunt's voice sent a chill down his spine. He heard the clicking of her boots on the stone floor, and then her long-nailed hand curled under his chin, jerking his head up to face her. Through the haze of blood and tears he could see her large, dark eyes, a sadistic gleam in them. He had seen that look before, when she was torturing a Mudblood someone had brought in. He had stood back, watched with something close to interest, when it was happening. Now, on the receiving end, he understood why that girl had screamed that way when Bellatrix looked at her.
"Now, Draco, don't be frightened." She smiled. "If you're good, maybe I won't even kill you. Our house-elf is getting rather old, isn't he, Rodolphus?" Bellatrix looked up at the Death Eater who still had a fistful of Draco's hair. "Yes, I think Draco will be a suitable replacement." She grinned, her eyes sliding back to Draco's.
"Just kill me," he choked out. Bellatrix grinned, her grip on his had tightening.
"I don't think so, dearie." She let go of his face, slapping him sharply as she stood, and looked to Rodolphus. "Let's leave him for the Dementors. We'll have a nice little show." Rodolphus let go of Draco, and he and Bellatrix walked off to a door at the side of the room. Bellatrix glanced at him once more before the door closed, smirking.
"Get out on your own and we might let you live," she said. Then the door closed and Draco was left alone with the Dementors.
Draco shivered as he stood on unsteady legs, biting his lip and stumbling off the platform. His head still ached, and the cut on his head was still bleeding profusely into his eyes. He managed to make it another five feet before he came nearly face-to-face with a Dementor. He nearly gasped, remembering at the last second to close his mouth. He slowly walked backwards, not taking his eyes off the creature, until he tripped over something and fell to the floor, hearing a loud snap! as he landed on top of his wrist. Draco barely managed to contain a cry of pain, and them one of horror at realizing what he'd tripped over was his mother's body. Panting, he looked up at the Dementor, his eyes wide.
"Bellatrix!" he called in desperation, looking frantically around the room. He scrambled back away from the Dementor. "Bellatrix, please! Let me out!" He managed to get to his feet, and got over to one of the doors, almost falling over several times and trying desperately to avoid looking at the body of his father, yet his eyes seemed drawn to where he laid on the ground only a few meters from the door, blood flowing onto the floor from his chest, where Bellatrix's long, silver knife was still sunk to the hilt.
The knife! Draco nearly laughed in spite of his panic. He staggered over, falling to his knees, and turning so his back was toward his father's body he pulled the knife free. Then, using his unbroken hand, he angled the knife so it would cut the rope binding him. Thankfully, the Dementors didn't seem to care much for him — probably don't have much of a soul for them to take — but he couldn't afford to be too optimistic, or they definitely would be paying attention.
Draco finally managed to cut through the rope after several minutes of frantically sawing with the knife, and he stood, running back over to the door. He quickly shoved the knife into the keyhole, turning and twisting it until the lock clicked, and he jerked the door open. He stood in the empty doorway, gazing down the long, narrow corridor ahead, before stepping out and slamming the door behind him. He then pulled the knife from his pocket, gripping it tightly, and began to walk down the corridor with only three things on his mind.
Find Bellatrix. Kill her. Get out.