"Draco!" Blaise Zabini hollered as he banged on the door to the head dorms.
Beside Blaise was Theo Nott, and the two Slytherins were deeply concerned about their best friend. Draco hadn't been seen since early on Sunday morning, when news of the Head Girl's death had broken. Blaise and Theo weren't particularly surprised when Draco vanished on the Sunday and Monday as they'd long suspected he was involved with Hermione. That was why they'd given him some space to grieve, but they had expected to see him in classes that day. All day they'd waited for their best friend to make an appearance, but when he still hadn't been seen by the end of the last lesson of the day the two Slytherins had decided to seek out their best friend. Even if Draco was grieveing, he needed some support and Blaise and Theo intended to be there for their best friend.
"Come on Draco, open up," Theo called.
"We're not leaving until you let us in," Blaise added. "We're stubborn buggers, you know that, Draco. Ignoring us won't work."
Raising his hand to bang on the door again, Blaise almost stumbled through the door when it was wrenched open. However, when he opened his mouth to give his best friend a piece of his mind, he was confronted with the head of Slytherin, Severus Snape. Although more confusing was the fact that Blaise and Theo could see Draco's father, Lucius, in the common room throwing some books into a box.
"Is Draco okay?" Theo asked, fear twisting at his gut as he wondered what had happened to his best friend. He just prayed Draco hadn't done anything rash as he didn't think he could forgive himself for not checking on his best friend earlier if anything terrible had happened.
"Draco's left school," Severus replied with a sigh.
"But no, he's not okay," Lucius added from the behind his old friend. "Far from it."
"He's cut up about Hermione, isn't he?" Blaise asked.
"Just what do you know about the Granger girl?" Lucius asked, gesturing for his son's two friends to enter the head dorms.
Since his return on Sunday night, Draco had refused to speak about the witch he'd lost. In fact, he'd refused to speak full stop, leaving Lucius and Narcissa deeply concerned over their son.
"We didn't know anything for sure," Blaise answered as he and Theo entered the room and Severus shut the door behind them. "We've long suspected he was involved with someone, but it was only this year we realised it was Hermione. Even though he never said anything, it was obvious whenever we were up here."
"Did you never ask him about it?" Severus asked. To be honest, he hadn't noticed anything and he'd been stunned when Lucius had told him Draco had been involved with Hermione.
"We didn't like to pry," Theo replied with a shrug. "We knew he would confide in us when he was ready."
"We should have come to check on him sooner," Blaise sighed. "We thought it was better to give him some space."
"I'm not sure you could have helped him even if you had visited him earlier," Lucius confessed. "Right now, I don't know who or what will help him."
"Is he really in such a bad way?" Blaise questioned with a wince.
"He turned up at home late on Sunday night, and went straight to see The Dark Lord," Lucius replied. "He went and told him everything about the Granger girl."
"Bloody hell, was he trying to get himself killed?" Theo gasped, shocked by Draco's rashness.
"That was exactly what he was trying to do," Lucius replied solemnly.
"No," Theo whispered. Even though he'd just said it, it had been more of a joke, he hadn't for one minute thought that Draco had tried to get himself killed.
"Draco isn't that stupid," Blaise insisted. "Yes, he might be hurting, but he wouldn't do anything so rash."
"He did, but fortunately he didn't get his wish," Lucius said. "Instead The Dark Lord gave him the mark."
"Draco's a Death Eater?" Theo gasped. He knew becoming a Death Eater was something Draco had never wanted, so he was concerned how it would affect his friend to have the mark he detested so much.
"For now," Lucius replied.
"What do you mean, for now?" Blaise asked warily.
"I mean, he's still not thinking straight," Lucius answered. "He thinks being a Death Eater is just another way to end his pain. He's hoping the Order take him out the second he faces them in battle."
"We have to stop him," Theo insisted.
"I've spoken to The Dark Lord, and I think I've convinced him to find something off the front line for Draco to do," Lucius said. "But it won't last forever. Before Draco goes into battle, we need to convince him he's still got so much to live for. We need to get through to him before he does something stupid and gets himself killed."
"We'll do all we can, but we're stuck in school for another few months," Blaise said.
"I should be able to keep him side-lined until then," Lucius said. "And hopefully by then, his mother and I will have gotten through to him. But even then, we're going to have to keep reminding him that he's got more to live for than just one witch. We need to keep his hopes alive."
"Don't worry, we'll do everything we can to keep Draco alive," Theo vowed. "He's our best friend, and we will not let anything happen to him."
"You're good friends, and right now that's what Draco needs," Lucius said with a nod. "Come and see him as soon as you can. Right now, I've got to get home."
"Make sure Draco knows we'll be over to see him as soon as school is finished," Blaise said.
"I'll let him know," Lucius promised as he gathered the rest of Draco's things.
Saying their goodbyes, Blaise and Theo slowly left the head dorms and headed back down to the dungeons, each of them struggling to believe that Draco was now a Death Eater. Even so, they vowed to be right at his side as he battled his demons and found a way to live without Hermione. Even if it meant they both signed up to become Death Eaters themselves, they were going to be there for Draco, no matter what it took.
Since arriving home and not achieving what he'd returned to do, Draco Malfoy, sat brooding in his bedroom. The Dark Mark on his pale forearm burned like hell, and the black markings seemed to mock him every time he looked down at his arm. For years he'd sworn not to get mixed up with Voldemort, and now here he was a fully-fledged Death Eater. The only consolation was that he wasn't going to be a Death Eater for long, in fact he wasn't going to be alive for much longer.
Since being branded with the mark, Draco hadn't left his bedroom at the manor. Both of his parents had visited him and tried to talk to him, but he refused to discuss anything with them. He didn't want to talk about Hermione, and he certainly didn't want to discuss the reason he went to see Voldemort in the first place. He knew his parents were worried about him and his state of mind, but he couldn't bring himself to care. Right now, all he cared about was the fact he'd lost Hermione and without her, nothing seemed important.
Thoughts of Hermione were pretty much what filled Draco's head as he lounged around in his room, waiting for Voldemort to call on him. Instead of trying not to think about his lost love, Draco welcomed the thoughts and he spent hours just sitting remembering their past conversations and time spent together. The only thing he refused to let his mind dwell on was the talks they'd held about the future. He refused to even think about the nights they'd lain in each other's arms in the head dorms, talking about what their future held and what they could do with their lives once Voldemort had been vanquished. Even though Draco was drowning in grief over Hermione, it was still too painful to think about the future he'd lost.
Draco vaguely recalled his father telling him that he would be going up to Hogwarts to let Dumbledore know he was leaving and to gather his belongings, so it wasn't a total shock when Lucius appeared late on Tuesday evening with a couples of boxes holding everything that Draco had left behind when he'd fled Hogwarts.
"Blaise and Theo were asking about you," Lucius said to his son, hoping the mention of his friends would get him talking, but Draco merely grunted in response. "They'll be coming to see you once school finishes."
"There's no need," Draco replied crisply as he got to his feet. "And you can chuck that lot, I don't need it," he added, glaring at the boxes as he strode from the room and into the adjoining bathroom.
Lucius sighed in resignation, but instead of throwing the boxes away, he stowed them in the corner of the room before leaving Draco's room. If Draco wanted to throw them away, that was his business, but Lucius wasn't going to do it for him. He wasn't going to aid his son in his attempt to avoid reality.
When Draco emerged from the bathroom, he was pleased to find his father had left the room, but annoyed to see the boxes were still in the corner of the room. Picking them up, he set off towards the door to get rid of them before suddenly pausing. Looking down into the boxes he suddenly wondered if any of Hermione's things had made their way into the boxes. Or even if they hadn't there would be plenty of his own stuff that held memories of his girlfriend. Suddenly not so sure about getting rid of the boxes, Draco changed his mind and opening the wardrobe he shoved them inside. He wasn't ready to look at the boxes, but maybe in a few days he would feel differently.
Although one thing Draco had decided when he was in the bathroom was that he needed some sort of warning for when people were approaching his room. Technically the whole wing of the house was his, and while he didn't want to keep people out, he thought it could be prudent to set up some sort of ward that alerted him to people's presence. He'd only been home a few days and he'd had constant visits from his parents. In future it would be nice to know when he had company coming his way, especially as right now he wasn't in a socialising mood.
Heading into his own personal library, Draco located some books on wards and set about reading them. For half an hour he studied the various spells he could place around his wing of the manor. Whatever he put up, he wanted to be sure it wouldn't affect the general wards around the house as that would only lead to trouble with Lucius. The studying was enough to give him some answers and once he'd settled on the wards he was going to use, he spent half an hour erecting them. Now he would know the second anyone set foot into his wing of the manor.
Satisfied with his work, Draco returned to his room. However, he'd barely settled down in the chair beside the window when he felt his mark stinging and Voldemort's voice appeared in his head, ordering him to a meeting in Lucius's study. Draco was disconcerted with the fact Voldemort could enter his head, but since he wasn't planning on being around for much longer it wasn't too much trouble. He could deal with Voldemort in his head for a few weeks if it meant he achieved his goal of joining Hermione.
Hoping that Voldemort had his first task for him, and that it was going to be a dangerous one, Draco headed down to his father's study. When he entered the room, his father and Aunt Bellatrix were present alongside The Dark Lord.
"My Lord," Draco said with a respectful bow of his head. Even though he didn't respect the dark wizard in front of him, he knew how to play the part of the loyal Death Eater.
"Nice try, Draco," Voldemort chuckled. "But I know you're not loyal to me just yet. That will change in time, trust me."
"Yes, My Lord," Draco muttered, even though he knew it would never happen as he wouldn't be around long enough for him to truly become a loyal Death Eater.
"Loyal or not, you're still a Death Eater and it's time to test your mettle," Voldemort said. "I've got a job for you. Tomorrow morning you're going to Gringotts with Bella, and she's going to retrieve something from her vault. I want you to take what she gives you, travel to a foreign country and hide it where no-one will ever find it."
Draco nodded, and after receiving a time to meet his aunt the following day, he left his father's study. There might have been a time when he would have asked questions about Voldemort's bizarre task, but not now. He wasn't even curious as to what the dark wizard could be up to. All he knew was that he had his first task from Voldemort, and he was just hoping it would end up being dangerous. After all, what was the point in being a Death Eater if he didn't find himself staring death in the face?