Title: Mistaken Delivery
Spoilers: The Gift, and ***Half Blood Prince***
Summary: Increasingly desperate attempts at fixing the Vanishing Cabinet finally yield results, but not the ones Draco had been hoping for.
Disclaimer: I own nothing and no one, woe is me
He had to do it. There was no alternative to success, no option of failure. He simply had to do it. Everything depended on it. His father’s life, his mother’s life, his own life, they all depended on what he was doing. Everything hung in the balance and the weight of it all pressed heavily upon him, nearly smothering him at times. Yet he struggled on. There was nothing else to do. He had to succeed. He had to.
He had to do this.
The words rang through his head, the desperation behind them contrasting so starkly to the confidence that had filled him when he’d first been given the assignment over the summer. He’d been so proud at first, so honored by being included. He could still remember the smile that had been on his mother’s face when he’d told her that he had been trusted with an assignment from the Dark Lord himself. She’d never looked prouder, and had enthusiastically proclaimed that his father would feel the same when he was told.
But then the specifics had been sent, the full extent of his duties outlined and while he had still felt an easy confidence, his mother’s smile had begun to wilt. It took the young Malfoy much longer to glimpse the reason for the strange way his mother always grew quiet when he mentioned his task.
The first few times he started to wonder why he, a boy not even out of school yet, a boy who’d worn the Dark Mark for no more than a few months, had been trusted with such a huge responsibility, he brushed it off. He was a Malfoy, after all, no job was too hard or too good for a Malfoy. Surely the enormity of his task had been chosen to match his extraordinary skill and maturity.
But after a couple of months of effort proved less than productive, he started to grow nervous. It had seemed so simple, especially for someone with his talent, but it had proved to be more complicated than that. Eventually nerves turned to frustration as he hit one dead end after another. Frustration dissolved into anger and six months into the school year he found himself unable to keep it all under the polished demeanor befitting a Malfoy.
He’d never forget the look that had slid over his mother’s usually dignified features when he’d screamed into the fire in the Slytherin common room. Ridiculous, he’d yelled. The whole thing was simply ridiculous. He couldn’t truly be expected to get Death Eaters into the thoroughly barricaded school and kill the legendary Headmaster, not without being caught. She’d been silent for a moment following his outburst, but then she’d grown angry, angrier than he’d ever seen her before, and turned on him with a viciousness, stating rather coldly that if it was that difficult he’d better take the advice his Head of House had been offering before it was too late.
The suggestion only escalated the confrontation, Draco sneering at the image of his mother’s face in the green flames. Surely she wasn’t serious. But she was. He would succeed, no matter who’s help he was forced to take in order to do so, she’d hissed. His life, all their lives, depended on it.
It had shocked him at first. He was a Malfoy. He was the son of Lucius Malfoy, one of the Dark Lord’s most trusted, and most feared Death Eaters. He was a pure blood of undeniable lineage, he was the epitome of everything the Death Eaters stood for. How could he ever have a reason to fear his Lord? Yet he did. As unbelievable as it had seemed to him at first, he had every reason to fear the Dark Lord should he fail the task set for him.
And failing, he was beginning to fear, was a real possibility.
He’d never before thought that there would be something his ability or his name could not get him. But the more he tried to complete his task, the more he wondered if this would finally be the one thing he couldn’t accomplish. It had seemed impossible once, that he would fail, but as time slipped away from him, as attempt after attempt got him no closer to his goal, a cold knot of dread and desperation began to form in the pit of his stomach.
This was his last chance, he knew. If he could not get this latest spell to work, if this plan didn’t pay out for him, he would have no other choice but to accept Snape’s help; and that was something he did not want to do. Severus Snape had been the Dark Lord’s right hand since his first rise, he was the only one their Lord trusted more than his father, yet there was something about the potions master that didn’t sit well with Draco.
The young Slytherin had always resented his Head of House for being higher in the inner circle than his father, had always detested the way the older man looked down at him. Snape wasn’t even completely pureblooded, yet he stood closer to the Dark Lord’s side than the Malfoy patriarch who could boast a much more prestigious line. It was wrong, Draco thought. But so was something else, something he couldn’t quite put his finger on.
Severus Snape couldn’t be disloyal to their Lord, that Draco knew, but there was still something about the professor that made him pause. And that pause was all it took to make him leery of allowing the older wizard to help him with the task that could doom his entire family should he himself not succeed at it.
So Draco trudged on, hoping with everything in him that this would work. It had to work, he thought as he closed the large tome. He’d scoured dozens of similar books over the past few months, for spells or charms that could accomplish what he needed. That soon proved impossible however, and he had sifted direction, eventually settling for anything that might come close to what he needed and working from there.
Almost three months of searching and piecing together what he’d found had left him with the single sheet of parchment that now sat before him. It was a spell of his own making, a jigsaw of different charms and curses that he’d found in the dark tomes he’d procured. Having been unable to determine exactly how the cabinet itself worked, he’d had to do his best to imbue the piece of furniture with the abilities he needed it to possess. That alone had not been enough, however, so he’d combined those efforts with another charm, one which was to be cast on the person using the cabinet. Hopefully the two spells he’d created would work together to achieve the desired result.
Months of painstaking effort had gone into the creation of the two spells, so much so that it had seemed at times like he would never complete them. But he had. They were finished, and the only thing left to do was put them to the test. It had taken months of work and the flagging of his previously unshakable confidence in his abilities before he’d even realized the necessity for this final step. It had been with this realization that the last of his misconceptions regarding his assignment had been dispelled.
As soon as he’d figured out that any spell he found or devised would have to first be tested before it was cast on any of the senior Death Eaters that would be utilizing his results, he’d gotten frustrated. He could trust no one with knowledge of his assignment. Even the most loyal Slytherins would sell him out in a heartbeat if it meant saving their own skins. So how exactly was he expected to test the potentially dangerous spells without risking himself? That, of course, had been when he’d realized that he wasn’t.
He wasn’t expected to do any of it without greatly risking his own pureblooded self. As impeccable a blood line as he had, as loyal to the Dark Lord as he and the rest of his family had proven themselves to be, he wasn’t expected to remain safe in the execution of his task. A task which was, he realized on closer thought, much more dangerous and impossible than he’d thought. He would be going against all the odds to even accomplish his task, let alone do so without damning himself.
He hadn’t wanted to accept it at first, still didn’t now. If his death was so sure, then he couldn’t be the only one that realized it. The Dark Lord had to have known what it would mean when he’d given him the assignment in the first place, which could of course mean only one thing. It didn’t matter to his Lord that he would most like die in his attempt. In short, as far as the Dark Lord was concerned, he, Draco Malfoy, was expendable.
Even weeks after the revelation, the thought still sent shivers down his spine and the sixth year was forced to consciously still the trembling in his hand as he opened the door to the seemingly harmless looking cabinet. It was time to put his work to the test and no amount of stalling would change that. Still, it took a deep breath and a gathering of will before Draco could make himself step inside and close the door as he simultaneously cast his newly forged spell.
The air rushed out of his lungs as soon as the last syllable of the charm left his lips and he doubled over within the confines of the cabinet, a sickening pain slamming into his stomach as he gasped for breath, flashes of light exploding behind his eyelids. After several endless moments however, the world around him ceased spinning and he stumbled into the door, falling through it with a breathless curse.
As the pain and nausea dissipated, the young Malfoy heir became aware of the cold stone beneath him and slowly opened his eyes. Junk. That was the first word that leapt to his spoiled and sophisticated Malfoy mind. Piles and heaps of junk, everywhere; tarnished objects strewn all around him.
He’d never seen these specific objects before, but the general look of the haphazard collection of magical paraphernalia that so characterized the incarnation of the Room of Requirement that had served as his laboratory for the last few months was familiar enough to bring a new stream of curses to his sneering lips. This time the flood of words was unrestricted by lack of oxygen and so continued for some minutes, occasionally accompanied by his kicking or knocking down a box or book within his reach in an effort to work out some of the anger and frustrations coursing through him.
He’d failed. Again. This had been everything, the culmination of all his time and work, his one true hope of success… and he’d failed. He’d gotten nowhere, except perhaps one step closer to his death, and the deaths of his father and mother as well. The thought drained the anger from his body, and he stood completely still, frozen with the humiliating chill of hopelessness and fear and the growing sensation that he might actually begin to cry.
Before the first tear could do more than sting the back of his throat, however, a noise caught his attention with sickening precision. Footsteps. He could hear footsteps, heavy, threatening footsteps. Frightening realization slammed into him. He had not checked in some time to make sure Crabbe and Goyle were still standing guard, and he had not heard any sound from the hall outside for hours. Surely if the two goons were still there, they would have alerted him to the presence of whoever was making those footsteps. But they hadn’t, and that could mean only one thing. He’d been caught.
His fear increased in time with his now pounding heart as he turned towards the sound, only to find himself starring at a set of stairs. He may not have been able to recognize the endless number of broken or illegal items that had been hidden in the room over the years, but he knew for a fact that there were no stairs in the Room of Requirement. Which meant he wasn’t in the Room of Requirement any longer. The thought sent a surge of hope through him, maybe the spells had worked after all.
Any further hopeful contemplations were cut short, however, as the footsteps grew closer, and the two individuals responsible for the noise burst through the door at the top of the stairs and halted in front of him. Frosty blue eyes widened at the crossbow and sword pointed at him menacingly, the words tumbling from his lips without conscious thought.
“Who the bloody hell are you?”
A tall blonde with an oddly distorted face brandished a nasty looking sword and cocked a single, scared eyebrow as the slender redhead next to him kept the crossbow aimed steadily at Draco’s chest.
“I believe that’s my line, mate.”