What's a boy to do? Draco was bored. And I don't mean just sit-and-watch-the-grass-grow bored; I mean bored! As in 'I'm going to slit my throat if something doesn't happen soon' type of bored. Which was why he was now, just a little over two weeks away from the start of school, sneaking around the mansion and listening in on any conversation he could eavesdrop upon.
Actually, being bored was something of an occupational hazard for the blond. His father kept a very close eye on him, allowing only occasional visits to the offspring of select pure-blood children; although none of them could really be called children any longer. In fact he didn't even need all the fingers of one hand to count the contacts he was allowed to have: Pansy Parkinson, whom he was supposed to marry in a few years (although the very idea of a female touching him in 'that way' made him shudder), Blaise Zabini, who was decent enough, then last and least, Greg Goyle and Vincent Crabbe, who were both only slightly better than visiting with rocks. All right, so that was a bit of an exaggeration; they still weren't very entertaining. Actually there was one other, but Draco had scratched him off his list of 'friends' when they were only ten years old; so he, Theodore Nott, could hardly be counted.
But those visits were few and far between, and most of them occurred here at Malfoy Manor anyway, so he didn't even get much in the way of a change of scenery. Other than those rare visits and his father training him in the Dark Arts, he had precious little to fill his time. Even sketching, his heretofore favourite pastime, had palled. As for Quidditch practice, chasing a snitch by yourself wore thin after awhile. It became a chore. It was only really fun when he had competition - and that meant Potter. Nobody else even came close to giving him a challenge.
But the Gryffindor didn't bear thinking about, especially right now. Draco's trousers always started to fill out in front when he did, and he had other pastimes in mind. He'd figured out from the increased activity of the house elves that there was a visitor in the mansion, and he meant to find out what it was all about. Casual visitors to the manor were almost non-existent.
He'd found out a lot of very juicy titbits from eavesdropping. Not that he'd ever gossip about any of it. No, it was much more fun just knowing, and the surreptitiously gathered information could come in useful for blackmail material later, should it ever be needed.
So now, trusty Extendable Ear in hand (although he normally wouldn't have had anything to do with something connected to Weasleys, it was a useful thing, and had been a present to him from Blaise, besides), Draco crept up to the door of his father's study, put the Ear in place, and retreated as far as it would allow him to go. Putting the earpiece to his ear, he was appalled to find his father in conversation with none other than the Dark Lord himself. As if that weren't bad enough, he was the subject in question.
He'd always assumed that his father's interest in the Dark Arts was what he had always been told it was; merely a means to political power. But this put a whole new spin on that explanation - one he'd adamantly refused to consider, before. His father - his father - was not only a Death Eater, something he'd known and accepted, although he had tended to think of it in terms of a gentleman's club - he'd even accepted the probability that his father would force him to join, although he didn't like the idea - but he actually knew and talked with Lord Voldemort, the ultimate Dark wizard of this time!
Draco listened in horrified fascination for a few minutes, and with every passing second he became more sickened; sickened, disillusioned, and heartbreakingly saddened. As coldly as his father had treated him, even with his use of the Cruciatus Curse on him as an occasional punishment, he had always believed that it was to train him to be strong, to eventually take his father's place in the wizarding world; not because he truly didn't care about him. But here his father was, planning to turn his own son - him! - over to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named; and not as a trusted Death Eater member, as he assumed his father was, but binding him to the dark wizard as some sort of disposable sex toy!
He almost dropped the Extendable Ear and ran, but remembered himself enough to retrieve it before retreating to the safety of his room. Now, however, he felt anything but safe. As he started thinking of his predicament he grew more agitated. He would not be a play-toy for that thing! He had heard rumours about the Dark Lord's predilections. If they were lucky, his 'toys' died quickly. And his father wanted to do this to him?
Father? Hah! Sire, perhaps. Lucius no longer deserved the title of 'Father'.
But what could he do? His mother was helpless against the man that had provided half of his genetic material, so there was no help there. His friends? Likely turn him over to curry favour. Run? Right! He scoffed at the idea. To where? Where could he go that he wouldn't eventually be found, and bound to that monster? There was no such place. Magic would lead his... sire... right to him. But there had to be a way out of this! But the only way to prevent being bound was... Right. The only way to prevent being bound, was to already be bound to someone else! Quickly he got out quill, inkwell and parchment, and started making a list of the people he knew, no matter how unlikely. Maybe one of them...
He wadded up the parchment and threw it in the fire. 'There has to be someone! Dumbledore? Old, half senile... Powerful, but he wouldn't bind me to him, and sooner or later I'd be kidnapped right from under his nose.'
'Who? Who? Who?' he kept asking himself, wracking his brain for ideas. Then one idea insidiously wormed its way into his mind - and lodged there. Time and again his mind kept coming back to a certain tall, raven-haired, green-eyed, handsome young man. (Well, maybe not tall, but taller than he, certainly.) And time and again he pushed the thought aside. But in the end he really had no other choice. Keeping his feelings and urges to himself was going to be hell, however. He had absolutely no idea on which side of the fence Harry Potter sat. Hopefully they were on the same side, but... Anyway, he was perfect. Well, that was beside the point. Draco could talk him into it, Harry wouldn't take undue advantage of it, and best of all, he was powerful enough to protect both of them at the same time. But what if he refused? There was that stupid feud they'd been fighting ever since first year. A feeling of cold certainty came over him. If Potter wouldn't help him, then the grave could protect him from that... creature's... 'affections'.
All right, now that decision had been made, the question was - how? He couldn't just go and plop himself and his problems in Potter's lap (Bad mind! He really didn't need that imagery, right now) without a plan to deal with it. Well, he had a plan - a binding. But there were so many! And some of them were almost worthless, they were so easy to break! And others... Well, others involved things such as he'd heard his father outline to Voldemort. But cutting runes into his flesh was not something he'd submit to voluntarily! So it appeared he'd have to take a page out of Granger's book, and do some research. Draco settled down to wait until the household was asleep.
A little after two A.M. he snuck out of his room wearing his pyjamas, slippers, and bed-robe so in case he got caught, he could plausibly claim he'd had trouble sleeping, and was looking for some light reading.
Although finding the titles he was looking for by wand light was difficult, Draco managed to find three fairly comprehensive books on the subject ('Of course', he thought bitterly, 'my dear father would have needed to research what to do to me'), and get back to his room without detection. Draco didn't worry about his father missing the books right away; he'd have copied out the spell, ceremony, and any other pertinent data needed so he'd not have to page through a book time and again to look something up.
Four days later he'd narrowed his choices down to three, any one of which would do the job with a minimum of pain. But only one gave the kind of guarantee he knew Potter would need to convince him to go through with it, especially given their past interactions. Great! Now all he needed to do was go to Potter's residence, and...
Drat! He had no idea where Potter resided, summers. Muggle relatives, somewhere. Wracking his mind for ideas, he was about ready to resign himself to his dagger when a faint glimmer of hope dawned. Professor Snape. It was unlikely the professor would, himself, know where Harry Potter lived, but he had more resources to find out. And Draco had the means to coerce that help, if need be. His little eavesdropping sessions were about to pay off. It was doubtful that the greasy potions master would want anyone at Hogwarts to know that he was a Death Eater, after all. And since the old curmudgeon had a bad habit of handing out wheelbarrow loads of assignments for summer work, he had a perfect excuse for contacting him.
The next morning he went to his lab (Yes, his lab. How else do you think he gets such good marks in Potions? - - - Eww... No! That's disgusting!). He took out his assignments and deliberately fouled up the same potion four times, in four very imaginative ways, then looked his mother up to, very truthfully (somehow she always knew), complain about it.
"Mother, I'm afraid I'm having a bit of a bother with one of my assignments. In Potions, actually. Do you suppose I could Floo over to Hogsmeade to look up Professor Snape to straighten it out? You know how father gets when I'm not first in class; well, outside of Granger, that is. I do wish I knew how she manages." (When you have an image to live up to, you live up to it, no matter how priggish it makes you sound; at least you do when you're talking to your parents or their friends.)
And that's how Draco found himself, two hours later, at Professor Snape's very modest two-bedroom house just on the outskirts of Hogsmeade. Due to Snape's prejudice against people Flooing in, however, Draco had to Floo into The Three Broomsticks and walk the short distance to the man's house. Personally, Draco thought that Snape's 'prejudice' was merely protection against anyone finding out about his Death Eater connections. He was almost right.
Draco was so anxious and preoccupied that when he got to the professor's house, he just cast unlocking spells until the door opened, then walked in. It was a terrible breach of decorum, but in Draco's state of mind he wasn't thinking of manners. As it turned out, however, although it gave the potions master a few minutes of quiet, but well-hidden fright, what Draco inadvertently found out was in his best interests, and aided him immensely. Professor Snape was talking to someone by Floo.
"That's correct, Headmaster; Kingston, Surrey. Seems he thinks to make a statement, since seven kings were crowned there," Severus stated.
"Another terrorist strike, then?" came Dumbledore's voice.
"What else? A few people have joined his cause out of fear because of these strikes, but what his over-all hopes are, is beyond me," the professor snarled.
"Who knows what goes through Voldemort's head? He's insane, of course. He can't truly believe to achieve his ends in this manner. By the way, Severus, I believe you have a guest," Dumbledore revealed, as casually as though he were discussing the weather.
Turning around, Snape was horrified to find he'd been overheard by the son of one of Voldemort's most ardent advocates. Whipping out his wand, he was about to cast Obliviate, when Draco spoke up.
"No need for that, Professor. It seems I came to the right person to help me after all."
At the young blond's first words, the professor paused, giving his young visitor time to finish what he had to say. A few moments wouldn't hurt, should he decide he needed to cast the spell anyway - and Draco didn't seem upset, nor had he reached for his own wand, so he hardly seemed threatening. Turning back to the fireplace, he said, "It seems we must continue our conversation another time, Headmaster. Go putter in your garden, or whatever you do when you're not meddling in other people's lives."
Despite his anxiety, Draco gave a small snort of laughter.
"A bit of sunshine might be just what I need, Severus," Dumbledore replied, humour evident in his voice. "Good luck to you, and be careful," the old man said, just before his head disappeared from the fireplace.
Turning to his visitor, the potions master spoke. "Do you always walk into other people's homes uninvited?" Snape snarled.
Startled, Draco realized the gaffe he'd made. Although what he'd heard made it easier to ask for aid, he'd thoughtlessly undone the professor's locking spells (only possible because of his father's training), and then to walk in and eavesdrop, might have made it harder to get acquiescence for the help he so desperately needed. "I... I'm sorry, Professor. I knew you were expecting me, and I had so much on my mind, and..." Draco's voice trailed off as he realized that he was babbling. A Malfoy did not babble. He gathered himself, and began again. "I do apologise, Professor. However, what I overheard will go no further, believe me. I-"
"It had best not," Snape snarled, interrupting. "If I ever have reason to regret not Obliviating you..." He left the threat unfinished, sure that Draco's imagination could come up with worse things than he could - or would - do. He continued, making his voice as abrasive and threatening as possible. "You said in your owl that you needed help with your potions assignment. Why would what you just overheard have any bearing on that?"
Draco tried his best to ignore the man's tone, adopting a somewhat haughty, if slightly deferential, demeanour as defence. "None, of course. I need help to find Potter."
Of all the things Severus Snape thought might come out of Draco Malfoy's mouth, this one was among the least likely, and it took him a moment to recover from his private astonishment. "Even if I knew where the brat spent his summers, why would I tell you? What would you be wanting with him?"
"May I sit down?" Draco asked, hoping the slight delay might give him time to order his thoughts.
"The chair by the fire is mine: sit anywhere else you like," the man replied truculently.
Draco's mind was racing as he seated himself, trying to put the best possible light on what he had to say. In the end he gave up and just let the words flow. "Since you were talking to the headmaster about You-Know-Who's plans, I'm assuming you're not a loyal Death Eater. That being the case, I'm hoping you'll help me escape him. I need Potter to do that."
This explanation needed some clarification. "Escape whom?" Snape asked. "And how can Potter help?"
Draco shot an irritated look at his Potions teacher. "The Dark Lord, of course! I heard my... father... talking to him. He plans to whore me off to him! A Dark binding, to make me his sex slave! And you know what happens to them! Well, I don't, personally, but I've heard rumours. Anyway, if I'm already bound to someone else, then it can't happen! You will help, won't you?" Draco asked, now almost in a panic.
Snape was horrified, although he did his best to hide it. He knew Lucius Malfoy was a cold-hearted bastard - but this? Upon reconsideration, yes; he could believe it. To curry favour with Voldemort, Lucius Malfoy would do almost anything. And now, it appeared, even his own son wasn't safe from being sacrificed to his ambition. He'd never heard a kind word from the man about his son; only of how weak and pitiful the boy was, although Severus couldn't really agree. The boy had survived with his sanity intact in that household this long, hadn't he? Still, perhaps Narcissa had helped, there.
"And you want to bind yourself to Potter? Why?" he asked.
"If I'm already bound, I can't be bound to the Dark Lord. And Potter's the only one strong enough that won't take too much advantage of the situation," Draco explained.
"Have you thought of speaking to Dumbledore?"
"I believe I've covered all possibilities, yes. The headmaster wouldn't bind me to him, and sooner or later I'd be kidnapped. I'd rather kill myself."
Snape nodded. The lad's reasoning was sound, and his reaction reasonable, under the circumstances. "Do you have a binding that's strong enough? You believe Potter will cooperate?"
Draco sighed with relief that his professor was no longer offering blocks, but exploring the situation. He took out the pages containing the binding he wished to use, which he'd carefully cut from the book of bindings he'd found it in, and handed them to his potions master while saying, "No, I don't know that Potter will agree. I believe he will, but if not, I have contingency plans. I'll hide out in Europe. It's risky, but it's the best other chance I'd have." The last part was a lie, of course. He didn't want the man stopping him from slitting his wrists - or throat, as the mood struck him at the time, should Harry - should Potter refuse.
Looking over the ritual Draco had provided him with, Snape was struck by how old it was; from the Dark Ages, it appeared. As he read near the end of the ritual, he smirked. "Are you sure Potter's magical strength and personal integrity are the only things you're interested in?" he asked.
Draco blushed. "They're the only things that matter, yes," he replied with exagerated dignity.
Snape leaned back in his chair, decision made. "Very well, then. When?"
Draco gaped, hardly believing his luck. Then he remembered himself and his calm exterior returned. "In two days' time would be good. My sire will be away to a business meeting at the Ministry, and it's the night of the full moon; an auspicious time for the ritual. It will give you time to set up an alibi as well, so you won't be implicated in my defection."
"You've thought of everything, I see."
"I hope so," the blond replied worriedly. Then, anxious, Draco asked the one question to which he still didn't know the answer. "You do know the whereabouts of Potter's residence, don't you?"
"If I didn't, I'd know it by that time," Snape replied evasively, still smirking. It was an ugly expression.
"In two days' time, then?" Draco inquired.
"In two days' time," came the affirmation.