I stood in front of the mirror, combing my hair with an ivory comb, stoical and calm. Inside, I was trembling, but this was not the time to let it show. I set down the comb on the dresser and allowed myself to feel the weight of the dagger sheathed at the small of my back. I would be safe. I would be fine. I had to believe this.
Walking across the room, I took my broom from where it stood at loving attention in the corner, and stepped out onto the balcony. The Hawaiian night was fresh and cool, punctuated by the whispering of many groups of voices far off, and the odd call of some tireless jungle bird.
I held my hand out laterally and my broom hopped into it, suddenly quivering with excited anticipation. I mounted it at a leap, and instantly I shot off into the night.
Veering around towards the front of the hotel, I quickly spied the spotting torch-lit pilgrimage of wizards and witches winding up a great hill to the pinnacle. I flew high above them, occasionally looking down at the hundreds of people who looked like no more than moving dots on a map.
Leaning forward, I accelerated, and tilted my broom to a thirty-degree angle. I sped for the mountaintop, wind whistling effortlessly through my clothes and hair. Higher and higher, faster and faster. The earth below was all but a blur.
At the mountaintop, I touched down some meters from the sound of congregated voices, hidden by the trees. I propped my broom up where I would be able to spot it easily, and wove my way through the viney underbrush towards the source of the light and sound.
A circular clearing almost a hundred yards in diameter had been made at the apex of the mountain, with paths like living veins full of people working up from all sides. In the center of it all, an enormous blue and orange bonfire roared, fed by nothing but pure magic. The flames stayed low, but I knew this state was only temporary. By the time the night would be halfway through, they would reach high enough to threaten the moon itself.
I moved swiftly through the shifting and murmuring crowd, Severus's advice standing foremost in my mind. I needed to find someone important and make contact, in order to establish my alibi.
"Draco!" a voice called, and I turned.
"Dad," I greeted. Problem solved.
My father looked positively exultant, sweeping towards me in his customary cloak and cowl. "I'm very glad you decided to be so prompt," he enthused, drawing closer to me. "It's nice to know someone in this family has respect for tradition. Speaking of which—have you seen your mother?"
"Um, yeah," I lied through my teeth. "I think I flew right over her and the Boots on my way up the mountain."
My father nodded in assent. "Good, good," he said. "I saw Pansy and your friends over that way, in case you were looking for them."
"I was, actually," I said, jumping at the excuse. I made to move away.
"Not so fast," my father smirked, dragging me back by my arm. Gently, he reached back and pulled my hood up so it eclipsed the majority of my facial features. I was suddenly veritably indistinguishable from the rest of the mob. "Can't have you running around bare-faced, now can we?"
I smiled at him, genuinely thankful for the extra cover. "Thanks," I said. "I'll see you after the party, right?"
"Maybe not until tomorrow—I'll be busy," Lucius said. "Now don't enjoy yourself too much."
"Don't worry!" Still smiling (and a little saccharine), I made my way off.
We had scarcely parted for five seconds when the fire surged and a sudden, booming voice cried out.
I looked up and there he was: the Dark Lord, standing atop the inferno. His words rang out, ensnaring the minds and the senses of the cloaked people within a sentence's duration. Even as I drew back they pressed towards him, some of them into the fire itself, remaining unscathed in their fervor. Soon their howls of delight were the punctuation to his sentences.
At the fringe of the crowd, I stood still and watched.
"…And they held us down, but they cannot prevail!" the Dark Lord cried. Yes! was the crowd's responsive profession of faith. "The defeat of their foolish ideals is inevitable!" Yes! Again, the call. "We are risen! Our voices will be heard!" YES! "They cling to their Muggle obsession—their Mudblood ways—like a crutch!" Yes! "Do you want to see what we think of the Mudbloods!?" YES! "Do you want to see what the strong can do!?"
And suddenly, she was there, hovering many feet above the tips of the flames, summoned by Voldemort's own wand. Her air-tethered body spasmed erratically in panic and terror. The Muggle girl I had delivered with my own hands. I could almost hear her screams against the sound of the gathering night wind. A strange, emotionless numbness took over my body as I watched her.
"This is the enemy!"
"Already writhing in defeat!"
"What do you want me to do!?"
I stared up in growing morbid fascination, mouth open in awe, disgust…and relish.
Mary-Sue began to lose her altitude slowly, sinking down towards my Lord and the flames. Her struggling was rekindled as she realized her rapidly worsening predicament, and a sharp scream tore free from her throat. The noise in the crowd rose rapidly as her terror grew; their yelling quickly became an unintelligible wall of orgiastic sound.
"Oh God, no, please, no! No, please, not the fire! Not that! NOT THAT!"
Lower and lower. Louder and louder.
"Someone, stop, please, I'm sorry, please don't kill me—oh God no! NO!"
I knew the flames would not hurt her, but I could see the fear in her eyes, even at a distance in the dead of night. It shone brighter than the fire itself. The cries of the crowd grew to a crescendo as she descended feet first into the roiling flame. The blaze flashed cerulean as she was completely swallowed up under the fire, but it failed to mute her screams.
The Dark Lord raised his arms and his eyes into the sky. The crowd took a collective apprehensive breath. He paused for one eternal second—and then he spoke.
"Erify beid, erify byal sohwe soht!"
The flames surged up, into her and through her. Beams of white-hot light shot out through her open mouth and wide open eyes, seeming to tear her head back and thrust her body erect through pure force of energy. The light tore out from inside of her, first from her natural orifices and then from her chest, and her back, her skull. Her body was literally disintegrated by the power emanating from the center of the blaze. Through it all Lord Voldemort stood tall above his pet destruction, his sacrifice, basking in the chaos of devotion which had burst forth from his followers like the light from the Mudblood's eyes.
She was dead. She had been killed slowly; intentionally; without hope of rescue. I found a sudden bitter feeling that someone owed me my thirty pieces of silver.
Slowly, inconspicuously, deliberately, I retreated back into the trees.
I was shaken, but not broken. As alienated as I felt, I accepted all I had seen.
I easily found my broom where I had left it, and once again made my way out into the night air. My toes all but brushed the treetops this time as I flew down the mountain, hugging as close to the earth as possible without doing myself serious harm on the sharp branches of the dark jungle below.
Faster and faster, farther and farther I dropped.
I alit soundlessly on the balcony of room three hundred and three.
The glass door, predictably, was open. No one had thought to increase the security of a woman already half-dead. I laid my broom down on the ground before entering, prepared for a quick getaway. Upon entry, I stole behind the curtains, which rustled in a light breeze from the open door.
The long mosquito netting hung all about Marian's bed, moving slightly and tinted blue by the light of the moon. My heart pounded against my ribs. Still at a distance, I found my wand and used it to carefully draw the curtains into twin bunches at the foot of the bed.
I put the wand quickly away and retreated back behind my curtain stronghold, accosted by the sudden horrifying mental image of Marian sitting suddenly up in bed, awakened by my malevolent presence to defend herself in the same way I intended to dispatch her.
Steeling myself, I drew the dagger. It was heavy in my hand. The handle was warm from the heat of my body.
This was no time to be afraid.
Like a malignant ghost, I stole away from behind the curtains and crept up to the bed, actively willing my hands not to shake. Marian lay deathly still with a look of disturbing tranquility on her features, like some grotesquely aged parody of Sleeping Beauty.
Trembling in undiluted revulsion, I felt a bead of sweat run down my clammy cheek. I took a breath. I raised the knife, and moved it slowly down to her throat.
One. Swift. Slash.
The blood poured out in an instant torrent, coating the blade in gleaming crimson. I withdrew just barely, somehow unable to remove myself from the scene without seeing my grisly task all the way through. I watched in fascination as her breath sputtered, and a choking sound came forth from her motionless form.
I wiped my sweating hand on my robe and reached out trembling fingers to momentarily grasp her wrist. Not even the slightest flutter of a pulse. In a sort of cathartic daze, I let go, and just watched the slackened face and the pooling blood. I had killed her.
A sudden rustle came from the other side of the room, and I leapt a foot in the air. I looked desperately around, but there was nowhere to run. Like a deer in headlights, I stared at the figure who had emerged in blatant disbelief and growing horror. Her hood had fallen half-down, revealing her disheveled white-blond hair and wide, pale eyes. She held a glinting, pristine knife in a hand shaking not unlike my own.
"Draco?" my mother whispered, incredulous and frightened.
"Mum…" my mind was racing. "What are you—what are you—?"
She laughed, the nervous tinkling of tiny silver bells. She gesticulated weakly with the blade. "The same as you, I think."
I could not tear my eyes away from the knife in her hands. It was maddeningly familiar, but in my stupor I could not place the form. "But…why?"
Narcissa looked around fearfully. "I—I can't explain. Not here. Not now."
I glared at her. "Yes, here! Now! We won't get another chance to speak alone."
My mother lowered her eyes. "I know," she murmured.
I let the silence pass for a moment, and then motioned limply to her weapon with my own. "Why?"
"Marian…she knew things." My mother's voice shook. "She was threatening to blackmail me. To tell everyone…oh, Draco." A single helpless tear traced down her cheek. "I know I shouldn't have, but I needed help. Your father was beginning to frighten me—to frighten us all. She was going to ruin everything. There was nowhere I could turn to, but…to them."
"I know," she said, her voice suddenly a sob. She hung her head. "They helped me find the courage, they helped me cope—but it came at a price."
"You," I said in slow, unassuming realization. "You were the other spy! The one closer in. Closer to the center. He told me about you!"
Her eyes widened. "No…you can't be. You're not…?"
"No." I looked away. "But someone close is. Someone very close. That's who I'm here for."
My mother smiled weakly at this pronouncement. "I'm proud of you," she whispered.
I closed my eyes. "Don't be proud," I growled. "Just know that you can turn to me. You're going to be safe, Mother, I promise. No matter what happens."
She wiped her tears away on her sleeve, and became suddenly self-conscious. With a quick, fluid movement, she concealed her knife and pulled her hood back up over her face. "We need to go, Draco," she said, sounding as simply and motherly as she would have if she were telling me that I'd eaten too much cake. "We can't risk being seen anywhere near here."
I nodded. "I know." I looked to the room's front door. "You go first. I came through the balcony."
Nodding slowly in just the same way, Narcissa backed away into the concealing darkness. "I love you, darling," she whispered.
I re-drew the mosquito netting, and slipped out the sliding glass door in a daze. I dared not trust myself to answer her.
Closing the door behind me, I stood in the silent moonlight, watching the trees move oh-so-slightly in the wind. The gory dagger still hung limply in my left hand, wet blood still dripping from the tip.
Slowly, carefully, I held it up to the light, inspecting it in all its terrible glory. The blade shone brilliantly, and with a sudden flash, I caught a glimpse of a ghostly inscription on the blade.
With a frightening rush I realized where I had seen my mother's knife: it was an exact replica of my own. A Malfoy heirloom.
"It's yours," Severus had said to me, presenting the knife.
Well, of course it was.
It had been a parting gift to him—from my father.
I quickly called my broom to me, and flew down to the beach. Out on the cool sand, I removed my boots and stood at the edge of the crashing surf, rinsing my father's blade in the cold salt water.
It was over. It was all over, and I'd gotten away with it fine.
Stepping back from the water, I dried the knife on my cloak as I stared up in the direction of the mountain top. Even from so far away, the soft, maniacal sounds of the Revel could be heard.
Suddenly, with a green fury, a shape made of light burst into the sky. It grew steadily and exponentially, until it was almost like the rising of a horrible emerald sun on the wrong horizon.
The Dark Mark.
I stood and watched it for a long time, reflecting on all the things I had done. I had walked into the fire, and come out unscathed.