All That's Left
By Yami no Kokoro
Draco's hands were still shaking by the time he reached the edge of the school grounds. He couldn't bring them to stop, and wouldn't have stood a chance at defending himself if he'd gotten attacked amongst the fray of battling Death Eaters and Phoenix members. Luckily, he hadn't needed to- Professor Snape hadn't left his side until they were nearly off the grounds, and his presence had been like an invisible shield of protection and comfort for the terrified teen that had until the Dark Lord's return viewed him as an authority figure second only to his father.
Yet now that protection was gone, and however misleading it had been, Draco sorely missed to the presence of the other man- though he hadn't been gone more than half a minute. He'd remained behind, near the edge of the school grounds, shouting for Draco to flee before abandoning him to face what a furtive glance over Draco's shoulder had shown to be the righteously glowering Chosen Child, Harry Potter.
At any other time the youngest Malfoy would have turned around and challenged Potter himself, but now the possibility didn't even occur to him. Snape was right, he had to run. He had to get away from this place now.
The only question was, where should he run to? He had failed his Lord... he hadn't been able to complete the task required of him... and the Dark Lord had assured him when they'd last spoken that a failure would cause him to punish every remaining member of the Malfoy line- including his mother. If he returned to his Master now it would only be to face death and- if he knew the Dark Lord one-one thousandth as much as he thought he did- probably a good bit of torture before that.
Yet where else could he possibly go to? If he didn't return he would be labeled a traitor and hunted down relentlessly. His home wasn't an option, even in his current state of shock he could realize that. That would be the most obvious place for him to go, and what was there for him now anyway? His mother was already as good as dead... like he was.
Draco stopped running as he reached the edge of the magical protection surrounding the Hogwarts grounds, and at the sudden lack of momentum his adrenaline seemed to drain away, along with any strength his legs had before possessed to bear him. He sank to the ground as though he had been cursed with a jelly-leg jinx, and blinked numbly at his still trembling fingers.
He couldn't quite figure out what had gone so horribly wrong with the night. After months of hard effort, Draco had been able to complete the first and probably the most important task that could have been given to a new Death Eater. He had been determined not to be one of those pathetic fools who were too incompetent to realize their potential and fulfill his Master's wishes- if the Dark Lord had assigned him the task of killing Albus Dumbledore instead of Snape then he must have believed that Draco was capable of doing it.
And the funny thing was, he had been. After months of effort- and constant near discoveries by nosey Potter and his pea-brained friends trying to play hero as usual- he had managed to repair the Vanishing Cabinet that Dumbledore had never suspected could be somehow used against him.
Senile old fool, the boy thought laughingly, though he could only imagine why the thought was currently making his gut clench uncomfortably instead of giving him the same warm, glowing feeling it had earlier.
After he'd called the Death Eaters things had gone better than Draco could have hoped. Granted, some members of that interfering group 'The Order of the Phoenix' had shown up to give his comrades a hard time, but Draco had still managed to get through them without any trouble. To top things off, he'd found that the old headmaster- supposedly so wise and unbeatable- had just wandered into his trap seemingly without a care in the world.
The youngest Death Eater had been able to remove the man's wand without any sort of a struggle, and after that Dumbledore hadn't even attempted to fight back. Everything they'd planned for almost a year had managed to go off perfectly- without fault, without incident, without hesitation...
Until that damned fool had started speaking, that is. Before that everything had seemed so clear, laid out plainly without room for dispute or confusion: 1.) He was the servant of the Dark Lord. 2.) The Dark Lord had ordered him to end Dumbledore's life. 3.) A.) He would follow the order, or B.) He and his whole family would die.
Which was what was going to happen now, wasn't it? True, Dumbledore had been ki... he was dead, like ordered, but he hadn't been the one to kill him. He didn't dare hope that any of the Death Eaters would lie about who had committed the murd... who had carried out the orders... unless it would put them in a better light. Lying for Draco would not help them in any way, and it would probably only draw not only the Dark Lord's wrath, but Snape's.
Snape had been the one to mur... (Why can't I even think the word?) to complete Draco's task, and therefore earn the Dark Lord's favor. While Draco had stood there like an infant- trembling, whimpering- the Slytherin house's head had coldly chosen to take the glory for himself. For all his words about wanting to help Draco, he had taken the opportunity to gain his Lord's favor without one thought about the vulnerable position it would leave Draco's whole family in.
'Your mother made me promise...' like you ever gave a damn about what happens to me or my mother.
Draco stabbed at the soft ground with the tip of his wand in what he had hoped would come out savagely, and would release some of his pent frustration, but came out seeming rather forlorn and lost.
He couldn't think about dying now. He had to think of somewhere he could disapparate to, somewhere no one would find him. He hadn't taken his test yet, he wasn't even old enough... he was still sixteen... god, I'm going to die before I'm even a legal adult... and yet, even with these awful thoughts plaguing him, Draco still found himself unable to move.
The rest of them... they'll be coming soon. They'll drag me off with them to face the Dark Lord's wrath... I won't survive the night... or worse, I will...
Draco couldn't bear to think about how long his Master would be able to amuse himself by torturing him, how he would probably gather with him every Death Eater that was still loyal to him and make them watch as he writhed and screamed...he would make Draco out as a lesson, make everyone else think twice before failing to carry out an order...
Perhaps if he did go back willingly... if he lay at his master's feet and begged for forgiveness... the mission had been completed, after all. Dumbledore was dead, so perhaps the Dark Lord wouldn't be quite so intent on punishing such a tiny oversight. Who cared, really, who ki... who carried out the order, as long as it was completed? If he begged enough, he might be forgiven...
The boy felt a small surge of anger flare within him at the idea of being reduced to whimpering and begging anyone's feet, even the Dark Lord. As a the sole heir to the rich and pure Malfoy line, Draco had been brought up as a proud wizard- and rightfully so- so the idea of bowing and scraping to anyone had always left him feeling a bit disgusted. Yet more than pride Lucius Malfoy had always been sure to teach his son the need for self-preservation, and when the need had arisen to fall to his knees and boy his head to a wizard clearly much more powerful and capable than himself Draco had seen no other option but to do so.
There had been no other option.
Dumbledore had given me another option.
Draco forced that thought away, his eyes feeling inexplicably damp.
No, he was lying. He was afraid of being killed and so he promised me what he thought I needed to hear. He was just waiting for me to put away my wand, then he would have attacked...
The idea rang hollow even in his own mind. He bit his lip so furiously that it bled when it threatened to join his fingers in trembling. He felt like an infant, reduced to practically blubbering just at the memory of an old fool dying.
An old fool that was promising to help me... and he was promising to help my mum too... if I'd just been quicker in accepting his help...
All of the shaking in Draco's body halted suddenly, shocked into stillness at that thought.
Accept help from Dumbledore? Accept help from that senile, Muggle-hugging, Potter-loving, Dark Lord-fighting old fool? When had that idea even become plausible to Draco? When had it jumped from one of the last things that Draco would ever acquiesce to to something seeming near likelihood? When had the old man stopped being someone that the youngest Malfoy loathed with a vengeance rivaling his hatred of Potter to someone that his mind seemed to be implying was almost... a savior?
About the same time he went and kicked it, of course.
These thoughts were unacceptable. They were worse, even, then having not fulfilled the Dark Lord's orders. They went against everything that Malfoy had been trained to believe, everything that any respectable pureblood held to be true. Thinking of Dumbledore as a savior was the type of thing that equaled treason amongst any authority figures Draco had ever held in any regard whatsoever- his father and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. The only person Draco had ever remotely respected that had seemed in favor of the Hogwarts Headmaster was Snape, and he'd just murdered him.
Draco gasped, dropping his wand and shutting his eyes tightly- he'd let it slip, he hadn't meant to... He thought his heart might stop as the word echoed ominously through his mind.
Murder. That was the topic of the evening, wasn't it? He'd almost murdered Dumbledore, but instead Snape had. Now Voldemort was going to murder his mother, and then come and murder him. Dumbledore had offered to save him, and Draco felt that had he had another second he would have agreed... but now that chance was gone. No one else had been there. No one but the Death Eaters had seen Draco's indecision about destroying the Headmaster, and that was a liability, not an advantage. If he went back now the Ministry would probably lock him up in Azkaban beside his father, which actually might not be so bad, considering the alternative...
There were no good options. There was no way that Draco could save himself. There was nothing left to do but run, and when Snape darted up and shouted for him to keep moving Draco did just that, remembering at the last second to lift his wand from the dirt, and followed his betrayer into the darkness of the night.
Because, as much as Draco hated Snape, he was all that he had left.