Forty-nine years later
Draco Malfoy was tired. There was really no other word for it, he supposed. Exhaustion had overtaken him over the last few weeks, causing large bags to form under his eyes and his skin to pale until it looked like snow. Unfortunately, Draco Malfoy didn’t have any time to rest, either. His life had changed drastically over the past year, and it had all started when his father had been thrown in Azkaban. In what seemed like overnight, Draco had gone from being an expendable schoolboy to becoming a full-fledged Death Eater with privileges and responsibilities. Even now, as he gazed down toward his left arm and admired the grotesque skull imprinted there around which a slithering snake curled, he felt a tremendous sense of pride. He had been chosen. Out of everyone else, him! At the same time, however, the Dark Lord had given him a task to which there was (conveniently) no instruction manual. Admittedly, it was not an easy task: to assassinate Dumbledore and to infiltrate Hogwarts with Death Eaters. This was the source of Draco’s sleep deprivation and frustration.
Despite his initial happiness with becoming a Death Eater, something was now eating at Draco. He didn’t know what it was, and had never identified anything like it previously, but it had all begun a few weeks earlier with a panic attack, a fight, and one little spell: Sectumsempra. When Potter had cast that spell at him, Draco hadn’t known what had hit him. One moment, he was full of anger and rage at Harry- after all, this was the boy who’d gotten his father imprisoned, and the next, he was lying on the cold, wet, hard bathroom floor, watching his own blood pool around him in swirls and gasping for air. As he laid there, a million thoughts had raced through his head. He was too young to die. Potter couldn’t have meant to kill him, because he was too righteous for that. He still hadn’t mended the Vanishing Cabinet. Would anyone miss him? He hadn’t had a chance to speak with his father since his imprisonment. He wished that dratted ghost would shut her mouth. Why did Potter look so bloody sorry? Didn’t he know what the spell did? Draco hadn’t ever done anything important with his life. He would die in vain. He never would achieve his goal of killing Dumbledore. Because he himself had been murdered. Was this what it felt like to be murdered? To know that someone hated you enough to end your life? Did Potter hate him so much? Did Draco himself hate Dumbledore enough to kill him? He supposed it didn’t matter now, as he would be the one dead... was that Snape? It had to be Snape. Then, all was black.
In some ways, Draco almost found it unfortunate that he had awoken, alive and breathing, in the hospital wing the next morning. It wasn’t as if he was suicidal or anything, but upon remembering his unfinished business, Draco had felt a sense of dread pool in his stomach, for the thoughts and questions of the previous day were still flying around his head. Did he really hate Dumbledore enough to kill him? He supposed he didn’t really have a choice if he wanted to keep himself and his family alive, but something inside of Draco, an inconveniently awakened conscience perhaps, was now questioning whether or not murdering Dumbledore was the right thing to do. Nevertheless, Draco was released from the hospital wing a few days later and somehow found within himself the vigour to continue his mission of mending the Vanishing Cabinet.
Draco stood in the Room of Hidden Things, staring at the Cabinet which had been the pain in his ass for the past few months. Over that time span, he had tested both an apple and a bird, and neither of them had come back unscathed. However, he now held another green apple in his hand, ready to try the Cabinet again. Draco had a good feeling about it. He didn’t really have a tangible reason to, but he supposed that it would have to work soon or him and his family would be at the mercy of the Dark Lord. Pushing the doubts and thoughts of failure away, Draco opened the door to the Cabinet, peering inside. The hinges gave a shuddering creak, and a faint smell, which reminded Draco of mothballs, wafted out. He cringed at the scent. After placing the delicious-looking apple inside, he gently shut the door.
“Harmonia Nectere Passus,” he whispered.
Draco could hear the faint crack of the apple disappearing, so he repeated the spell again, which would ensure the apple’s reappearance. Once again, he heard a faint crack. Hoping with every bone of his body that it had finally worked, he opened the door with haste and peered inside. The Cabinet was as musty as ever, and spiders seemed to crowd every inch, but Draco didn’t care. The apple had returned unharmed! He let out a celebratory whoop. It was the first of them that had, which meant that the Cabinet was repaired. Or was it? Maybe the Cabinet could handle small objects, but could it handle an entire gang of Death Eaters? Draco decided that he would have to find some guinea pigs. He wouldn’t be the first person to use it, of course, for he was far too valuable to be essentially splinched by a slightly sentient piece of furniture, but he did have friends, ones who would do anything Draco asked them to. With this idea in mind, Draco left the Room of Requirement. A bit of cockiness had returned to his step.
“Goyle, just do it! Do you really think I’d want you trying out this Cabinet if it wasn’t safe?” Draco snapped.
His temper had been short all morning, he knew that, but time was running out. The school year was almost over, and the Dark Lord had recently inquired about the mission. To Draco’s horror, he had not been pleased with Draco’s lack of success, and threatened him again with death for both him and his mother. A chill ran down his spine just thinking about it.
“Alright, Alright!” Goyle said with a hint of exasperation as he stepped into the Cabinet.
“Thanks,” muttered Draco begrudgingly. “Harmonia Nectere Passus.”
A larger crack resounded as Goyle disappeared, presumably out of the Cabinet. Draco decided to wait a couple moments before saying the spell again.
“Harmonia Nectere Passus,” he uttered for what felt like the umpteenth time.
Goyle returned like a thunderclap, stumbling out of the Cabinet and wrinkling his nose in disgust.
“Ugh, I feel like I’m going to be sick,” Goyle moaned.
“Never mind that,” Draco said dismissively. “You came back in one piece. That’s all I needed, Goyle. You should go.”
Goyle looked like a puppy who’d just been refused a treat.
“Can’t you tell me what you’re planning to do for the Dark Lord?”
Draco felt a red-hot anger sear through his stomach. He purposefully had not told Crabbe or Goyle about why he was mending the Cabinet or who he was trying to kill, but that didn’t stop them asking over and over and over again.
“NO! Mind your own damn business, Goyle, and quit asking me that,” Draco barked.
“Okay, okay,” Goyle recoiled, raising his hands in the air. “You don’t need to bite my head off.”
“Just get out,” Draco said, a scowl etched across his face.
Goyle strode towards the door and slammed it behind him, sending dust swirling around the room.
“Alone at last,” Draco muttered.
Despite Goyle’s pesky questioning, everything had gone extremely well! The Cabinet hadn’t maimed, killed, or seriously injured Goyle in any way, which meant that Draco could owl the Dark Lord with the good news: Death Eaters could finally infiltrate Hogwarts. It was what he had worked an entire school year to achieve, and now it was done! He had finally succeeded in his mission, and he finally had good news to send home. Despite all this, the pride and accomplishment he should have felt didn’t seem to come. As he stood there, gazing at the Cabinet, all he could feel was a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. Why did he feel so empty? Why hadn’t that fulfilled him? Mending the Cabinet was a great achievement, after all, something that took a certain level of magical skill to achieve. A couple years ago, Draco would’ve been extremely proud of the whole situation. He would’ve felt immense joy in the idea of Death Eaters ruling Hogwarts with no Albus Dumbledore in sight. Now, however, Draco felt neither pride nor joy. He simply felt grey, like his world had de-saturated around him. It was a most depressing feeling, one that Draco was getting rather used to.
He continued to stare at the Cabinet in an almost transfixed state. He had been in such a hurry to understand the Cabinet, to mend it, that he had not paid any attention to the architectural details of the Cabinet. It had been made from a rich looking wood, whose texture reminded Draco of his father’s credenza desk. It was tall, about 8 feet or so, and about 4 feet wide. The carpentry was perfectly precise in every little edge and detail. With all of this in mind, however, Draco focused on the very front of the Cabinet- the door. On the door had been carved a tree, with great sprawling branches and a thick, supportive trunk. Draco couldn’t help but be mesmerised by it, for the tree almost seemed alive. In fact, as he admired the precision of the twigs and the majesty of the roots, the tree began to move. At first Draco thought it to be a trick of the light, but as he observed it further, he could not deny that the branches were bending and bowing in some sort of magical wind. It entranced him and drew him closer to the Cabinet. Without knowing what he was doing or why he was doing it, he opened the door of the Cabinet and stepped inside. He had become enthralled with it, and some strange type of excitement was coursing through his veins as he closed the door tightly behind him. All was pitch black, and the only disturbance was a house fly which had been trapped in the Cabinet. Then, the urge came to say the spell, to try the Cabinet for himself.
“Here goes,” muttered Draco. “Harmonica Nectere Passus.”
He felt his entire body jolt. It was a bit like being pressed into a pipe while traveling at the speed of light on a roller coaster. Draco now understood why Goyle felt so sick. He closed his eyes and braced himself for the landing. When he reopened them however, a large gasp left his mouth. For he was not in Borgin and Burke’s. He was in a forest, a dark one at that, alone. Trees towered above him, swishing in a dance that only they could’ve remembered. There was undergrowth all around him, and the ground was wet and soppy, as though it had just rained. He could barely see anything because the forest was so thick. As he observed further, he realised that he had never seen the place in his life. What had gone wrong? Where was he? And how on earth was he supposed to get back to Hogwarts?