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Afterwards, when he finally reached the blessed isolation of his room, Draco Malfoy carefully closed the door, checked that no cringing retainer was loitering inside, and then was elaborately sick all over the three hundred year old Berber rug. A house elf apparated at once, its face contorted into an expression of stupid concern, but it vanished promptly when he barked out a sharp threat of clothing.

Draco stared down once more at the dismal mess on the carpet. He knelt there for a long while in silence, shivering and wondering almost abstractedly whether he were going to vomit again. The patterned knot work beneath his splayed fingertips was, he noted, far coarser than it looked, and it struck him that he could not recall ever having touched it before with his bare skin. One dropped things, and in the natural course of events a house elf would pick them up and deal with them appropriately. A Malfoy did not grovel on the floor like some base Mudblood. A Malfoy did not scurry around barefoot, like some tattered Weasley hobbledehoy.

After a little while he was sick again. The acid nastiness stung his sharp tongue and he tried to concentrate on this mundane sensation instead of thinking about - less palatable matters. But it was impossible to stop thinking about less palatable matters. He remembered the look on her face and found himself abruptly unable to stop retching, as his empty stomach roiled and clenched painfully in protest, until there was nothing left to spit out but bile. His head hurt, and the mark freshly branded into his skin hurt, and there was no avoiding the fact that life had taken a turn as unwelcome as it had been unexpected. Growing up was, it turned out, considerably less pleasant than one was led to believe.

Draco didn't notice at what point the tears started. He didn't weep out loud, though; he was, at seventeen, far too old for such infantile tricks. It was a physiological reaction, nothing more. Nevertheless, the tears persisted; his breathing grew ragged and his elegant nose began to drip with inelegant mucus. Draco leaned back against the hard mahogany curves at the foot of the bed and wrapped his arms around his neatly folded knees, hugging himself tightly and willing himself to stop this nonsense at once. It didn't work. He got snot on the sleeve of his robes. He was thoroughly disgusted at his lack of self-control.

He missed his mother.

* * *

 

"Father."

Draco's voice, he was pleased to find, was very close to its usual arrogant lilt. Of course, he had been practising it for several hours now, as the dark sky softened into predawn oyster grey and the sprinkled stars faded out of sight. Lucius glanced up from the pile of scrolls. Draco knew his eyes were still a little red despite the application of cold water, cucumber slices and several charms, but he prided himself on the coolness of his expression, and it seemed that whatever Lucius was seeking, he was satisfied by what he saw. Draco slid into a chair at the breakfast table on one side of his father. Lucius Malfoy smiled tightly and returned his attention to the pile of scrolls.

"Good morning, Draco," he said. There was approval and something deceptively like warmth in his tone.

The solid cherrywood felt incongruously ordinary beneath Draco's fingers. He stared at the surface of the table. The tension in the room lessened not a whit, but both Malfoys made a point of pretending not to notice. Draco felt reasonably sure that he could hold down his half of any conversation that might be forthcoming over coffee and crumpets, and had rehearsed his intonations and expression with a desperate intensity that he had never directed at revising for his OWLs. Happily, however, Lucius seemed disinclined to small talk. Draco's composure faltered only infinitesimally when his darting glance fell on the empty seat opposite Lucius. The house elves had not set Narcissa's place this morning, but for some reason they had still prepared the usual amount of food. The pristine linen was piled high with far too much for two people. Draco blindly buttered a triangle of toast and reached for the marmalade. Far too much food. He noticed that they had even put out Narcissa's favourite orange blossom honey, despite the fact that neither Draco nor Lucius cared for it at all, and he felt something suspiciously like an unvoiced sob welling up in his chest. Stupid. They should throw the stuff out.

Tears prickled terrifyingly behind his eyes, but he ignored them and concentrated on lifting the crisp toast to his lips. It might as well have been cardboard. He chewed stoically and avoided looking at his father; if there was one thing that Malfoys could do well, it was appear aloof and at ease in the presence of enemies. Not that Draco was entirely sure Lucius was his enemy, but he was taking nothing for granted. And Lucius must know this. Draco had never really had a flare for chess in the past, but he had a feeling that he'd better damned well acquire the skill fast. The stillness of the breakfast room was disturbed only by dutiful chewing, by the businesslike rustle of Lucius's scrolls, the occasional chink of cup against saucer and the rhythmic ticking of the clock on the mantelpiece.

Draco wasn't quite sure what breakfast etiquette was customary on the morning after the night one had seen one's mother killed with slow efficiency in one's stead, but given his ancestors' reputations he doubted this was the first time a Malfoy had been responsible for the demise of his own spouse. There probably was a chapter on the matter in one of their volumes of etiquette, Draco reflected, feeling something dangerously like hilarity bubbling away under the surface. He plucked another piece of toast from the rack and started to weigh up his options as dispassionately as he could whilst he scraped butter over the brittle surface. There would be time to indulge in histrionics once he was out of immediate danger. If he could manage to get himself out of immediate danger.

* * *

 

The second time Draco stepped through Voldemort's looking glass, it was with none of the amorphous sense of dread he had experienced before. This time the dread was very specific and considerably stronger. This time, as he followed his father through the suddenly viscous surface of the mirror, he couldn't help wondering whether Lucius was going to let him die. Probably not, on balance, but all bets were off now. If Lucius could kill Narcissa - and if Narcissa could calmly lead her own son through the portal in the mistaken belief that Draco was the intended sacrifice - then all the old certainties upon which he had built his life were fragile as the thinnest antique glass. He had been living in a fool's paradise until now, but Draco Malfoy had finally realised that nobody else could be counted on to protect him. It was a lowering discovery.

Passing through the mirror was an odd experience in and of itself. The glass was not precisely a port key, but the physical sensation of travelling through it was much the same. Draco felt an odd twist in his guts as he was jerked over the threshold and the silver surface melted around him.

The other side was just as he remembered it, and he had no idea where in the world it might be. The walls of the room were covered with opaque mirrors: dozens of enchanted doors into other people's houses, all of them working only at Voldemort's command. Lucius was already striding towards his master and the amassed Death Eaters. Nobody, this time, was screaming. So far.

Voldemort's inner circle comprised men and women whom Draco had known all of his life, and he had spent much of the past few years looking forward rather smugly to the time when he would eventually assume his rightful place among them. He had expected it to be - different. Lucius cast an irritable glance over his shoulder and Draco quickened his pace, knuckles whitening pointlessly around his wand.

There had to be a way out of all this, he told himself desperately. Voldemort glanced towards him, a small frown furrowing his brow, and Draco’s stomach clenched. He did his best to look thrilled at the honour of attending a Death Eater meeting and hoped that Voldemort couldn’t read minds. He was shivering as he took his place at his father's side, half hidden from Voldemort. Draco had always thought that he would feel powerful as and when he joined the ranks of Death Eaters. He hadn't understood what it meant to be one of Voldemort's followers at all.

"We are gathered here to serve you, my Lord," Lucius said. Draco despised his father's tone of voice. Throughout his young life Draco had had it thoroughly impressed upon him that Lucius Malfoy deferred to nobody. When the Dark Lord returned, however, Draco had discovered that his father was capable of obsequiousness and unquestioning obedience, and this had been the first of a succession of surprises.

Draco licked his dry lips. One way or another, he promised himself, he was damned well going to get away before Voldemort decided that he needed another blood sacrifice to prove his followers’ loyalty.