“Draco! Where have you been?” Hermione looked worried. He had come across her on his way out of the Slytherin common room, having washed and showered himself in warm water, savouring it all as it dripped and drenched through his hair and skin. Now, dressed in a fine set of deep grey robes his mother had once bought him, he strode out, wearing the blue of the earring in his ear, but not daring to wear the actual betrothal ring.
“We’ve been so worried. We thought you weren’t going to turn up!”
“Well, I’m here now,” Draco assured her, pulling her into his embrace. He felt the softness of her hair tickle against his cheek and closed his eyes for a moment, before pushing her away and straightening. “We might as well go.”
Potter was glaring at him coldly. Ron was absent. Draco supposed they had refused to let him come, after all this, and so didn’t bother asking.
He used the binding charm against Potter, who protested loudly. “Well, you want this to look convincing, don’t you? How would it be if you just turned up, following me like a dog to face your doom? It’s just not realistic. So we’ll do it my way. Tied up, at wand point.”
“You’re loving every minute of this, aren’t you, Malfoy?” snarled Harry.
“More than you can ever know.”
Hermione frowned and turned once again to face him. “We should go now.”
“You’re not coming,” he said sharply, staring down at her in horror. “You can’t.”
“What?” she demanded angrily. “Why not?”
“Malfoy’s right, Hermione,” Harry agreed with his foe grudgingly. “We’ve got enough to worry about out there without you being in the heart of it. Just go back to bed.”
Her anger was echoed by her hurt. “Neither of you can tell me what to do! I’m my own person, and I want to come. I know how to fight – I can perform charm work better than either of you.”
“This isn’t charm work, Herm,” Draco assured her bitingly. “This is Dark Arts. And as I remember, you don’t seem to have got an Outstanding in that Defence subject, whereas Potter and I have.”
“This isn’t about grades, Draco.”
Harry laughed brashly. “Now I’d never dreamed the day I’d hear that from you, Hermione.”
“In case you haven’t noticed,” she snapped, “this is night, not day. This situation’s dangerous.”
“Exactly,” scowled Draco. “Which is why we don’t want you coming. This isn’t a game, Herm, this is for real. Potter and I will probably end up killed, and we both want to know that you’re up here, safe. They could use you as a hostage or something out there, and we all know that neither of us would sacrifice you for anything. You’ll just be in the way.” He kissed her delicately. “So go to bed.”
Tears were streaming down her face now, her mind torn between pride and what was sensible. Eventually, she nodded, and between gasps looked at them each in turn. She wrapped Harry safely in her arms, kissing his cheek.
“Be careful,” she told him. “I don’t want you dying out there, not after all those times you’ve beaten Him.”
Harry smiled, unable to touch her for the ropes that entwined him, but he looked deep into her eyes and said, “I’ll be ok. Tell Ron thanks for everything – you know, being my friend and all. And you, Hermione – you’ve been great. Neither of you have ever deserted me, no matter what people have said, and I want you to know I really appreciate that. I won’t forget it. But now I’m ordering you – stay away. This is my fight. I don’t want you two involved; I don’t want you risking your necks for me anymore.”
“Stop talking like you’re not coming back,” she scolded him, still crying.
He only smiled weakly but did not reply.
She turned towards Draco, and the dread and disaster were etched deep into her eyes. She was scared, terrified in fact, of losing them. That was why she wanted to be there, Draco supposed. She wanted to make sure they were ok. He knew that if it were her going out there, he’d be the same. He wouldn’t take no for an answer. It would be painful, sat up inside while your loved ones were out battling for the good of the world. Intolerable. He wouldn’t be able to stand it. In some twisted ways, he was disappointed that she did not put up more of a fight, but then he supposed she was just more obedient than himself.
The kiss she planted on his lips lasted a long time, so that Draco caught Potter looking away in embarrassment. This time he could taste her love rather than her aroma, could feel it as strong as anything burning into him. He hoped she could taste his own, instead of the bitter guilt.
“Hermione, if anything happens, or even if it doesn’t . . . I want you to have this. I want you to read this while I’m gone.” He pressed the parchment letter he’d received this morning into her hands. She glanced at it with confusion, then looked up at him with suspicion. “Whatever happens, Herm, I – I don’t want you to hate me, ok? Please, that’s all I’m asking for.”
Slowly, she nodded, and he kissed her again, but this time ended it quickly. “We’d better go. It’s almost time.”
She nodded, and watched at the top of the stairs as they disappeared down the corridor and turned the corner, out of sight. Draco prodded Potter with his wand and nodded towards the exit doors.
“So, Potter, you think this is going to work?”
Harry raised a shoulder in half a shrug. “How should I know? I dropped Divination, Malfoy.”
He snorted. “So did half the year. What I mean is – do you think we stand a chance?”
“I do. Dunno about you.”
Draco pretended not to hear the hope in that last declarative. “Why not me?”
“’Cause you’re gonna have to face Voldemort’s wrath when he finds out you’ve tricked him. You’re going to have to admit to the other Death Eaters that you’re a traitor.” The words stung him. “How do you think they’re going to take that, Malfoy? I think somehow it will be worse than a telling off and being sent to your room, don’t you?”
He was trying to make him nervous, Draco knew it, but refused to let the idiot get to him. He started to laugh hesitantly, coldly. “You know, I’d look at it the other way around. It’s you the Dark Lord loathes the most, Potter. You stand in the way of his victory. I wouldn’t be surprised if he killed you straight away.”
“Don’t sound so optimistic, Malfoy.”
“Just stating the facts, Scarhead.”
They came to the edge of the Forbidden Forest. Draco checked his watch. Ten to eleven. What time had Dumbledore said they should enter the forest? Five to eleven . . . that left them twenty minutes to reach the Dark Lord and his servants. Quarter past eleven, quarter past eleven . . . the words had a negative connotation. He felt the chill of them rinse through him. Would it be the hour of his death? Only time would tell.
Quarter past eleven . . . the words echoed onwards in his head. Voldemort wanted Potter dead by midnight. That would give him forty-five minutes of torture . . . he glanced across at Harry.
“I think old Voldy’s got a lot of plans for you . . .”
“What’s the matter, Malfoy? Can’t stand to produce the whole of his name? I mean, it’s just a few letter slung together . . . come on, try it now. Voldemort. Voldemort,” he said again, enjoying the way it made him flinch. “Vol-de-mort.”
“All right, shut up now, half-blood! You’ve had your fun. It’s approaching eleven.”
They stepped forward as one, approaching the darkening gaze of the wood, the gnarled trees twisting up in a way that seemed more malicious than before. The night hung in silence, the moon scratched into the sky, large and round and full, reminding his curiously of a bulging belly, the pregnancy of Emstilla. He shivered and drove the thought from his mind.
The lights from Hagrid’s hut guided them far enough, but before long Draco had to light his own wand with, “Lumos.” He stopped for a moment, stretching his palm outwards.
“If you want sweets, Malfoy, I haven’t got any, and this is hardly the time.”
“I need your wand, Potter,” he snarled angrily. “How would it look if you turned up and I hadn’t even bothered to take your wand? It would look like a conspiracy, that’s what it would look like –”
“All right, all right,” Harry groaned. “Keep your fur on, ferret. It’s in my back pocket.”
Draco glanced down at the half-blood’s Muggle jeans and sneered. “If you think I’m going in there, Potter, then you’re very much mistaken –”
“Oh, don’t be so pathetic, Malfoy, just pull it out.”
With a look of disgust, Draco retrieved the wand and stuffed it inside his robes. He cleared his throat and nudged Harry forward. “From now on we’ll have to act like you’re the prisoner and I’m the captor –”
“I think we’ve both surpassed nursery school, Malfoy.”
“Shut up, Potter! You know what I mean.”
They entered the forest, the cold looming shadows reaching out to them like vices, trapping them within its mysterious dark stench of evil. The mossy carpet was soft yet slippery beneath their feet, and the overhanging branches brushed past their faces wit vines and thorns and deep cutting twigs.
“So, do you think –”
“Shut up, Potter – or do I have to silence you?”
Harry passed him a venomous look as Draco prodded his wand like a Muggle-gun into his back. They walked onwards, crossing over sharp jutting rocks, and when they came to the familiar landmark that Draco knew as his tree, he dealt Potter a sharp kick to the small of his back, so that he went tumbling over to the floor.
“Stay there,” he growled vehemently.
“Don’t question me, Potter, just do it,” he snapped, then drawled, “I’m in charge here.”
Leaving Harry sprawled on the ground, Draco reclimbed the tree he had climbed only two weeks ago, feeling the scratchy roughness of its bark and remembering even in the dark where to put his hands and feet to prevent himself from falling. At last, reaching the most favourable branch, he looked out across the vast stretch of forest and saw once again the dancing light of the fire, the hooded cloaked figures encircled around it. Then, off to a little distance, stood the Order, watching, waiting, fidgeting impatiently.
“They’re all there,” he told Potter as his feet touched the safety of the ground. “Death Eaters, Dark Lord, Order, all . . . it’s just us now.”
“Great,” Harry replied non-too-enthusiastically. “Malfoy, this better not be a trick, or –”
“Or what, Potter? There’s no use making threats, because for all you know, quite soon you could be dead.”
“I swear, if this whole thing goes according to plan, then as soon as we get out of here I’ll give you the beating of your life.”
“If, Potter, if,” Draco smirked, his smile turning into a poisonous sneer.
Without another word, they moved onwards, Draco’s wand driven far into Potter’s back. He didn’t care much about the Boy-Who-Lived’s fussing and moaning, just insistently moved forwards. At last, or perhaps too soon, they reached the edge of the trees, moving into the opening and view of the Death Eaters.
“My Lord,” Draco hurried forwards, sinking into a deep bow before the Dark Lord’s suspicious glare. “I brought you the enemy, as instructed.”
He didn’t allow a thought to cross his mind, any emotion to creep into his face. Potter had warned him of You-Know-Who’s power to read minds, and it had scared him even more. He had been training each night before he went to sleep to loosen his mind, to feel callous and empty, to drift away, to talk to Hermione without any feeling. It had worked. When Potter had tried the Legilmentus on him, he had been able to stand without blacking out, to control his thoughts and shield them behind a big black curtain in his mind. He had quite a knack for doing it.
“Well done,” Voldemort hissed. “My praise to thee.” He looked across at Harry, eyes hardening behind his hood. “Come here Potter!”
Harry took weary steps forward, under the point of Draco’s wand. He was pushed down into the dirt before Voldemort’s feet and forced to look up at him with flashing hate in his eyes. Draco smirked, then ran his eyes around the circle. They were all here, Crabbe and Goyle with their bulging bellies, their muscular arms hidden by layers of fat and their piggy, small eyes darting evilly from side to side. There was Bellatrix Lestrange, aristocratically tall, her eyes darker that the night itself, a velvety sheen of hair trailing down her back. Gaunt and pale, she turned to fix her gaze on Draco as if she knew something. He frowned, but she quickly looked away, a small smile on her thin bloodless lips, her hooded eyes blank.
His eyes continued to study the faces, all of which a layer of evil was indented. They were all here, all waiting. But who was that one, hidden in the outer edge of the circle, a hood pulled up over his eyes and face so that all Draco could make out was shadow? He seemed familiar somehow, the tall, slenderness of body, the sharp, angular build, the way the robes fitted him perfectly.
“Tonight, Potter, is the night you die, and the prophecy becomes nothing but useless inscription.” He smiled narrowly. “Oh, that’s right, Harry, I’ve heard the prophecy too. I had a little spy within Hogwarts to tell me all about it.” His eyes darted towards Draco, who blushed. “Sneaking through corridors and listening into conversations is what my dear Master Malfoy does best.”
There was something wrong, Draco could sense it. He watched emotionlessly as the shadowed man stepped forward and hissed, “Morsmorde,” and felt the familiarity of that angry, cold voice. Surely not . . .?”
The man noticed his stare. He looked up, and Draco caught a glint of silver-grey eyes. Pale hair found its way out of the corners of his hood, and Draco’s eyes widened in horror as he realised who this man was. But how . . . how could he have gotten here? Dread swam like venom at the bottom of his stomach. The sudden realisation on his face caught Voldemort’s attention and a thin, blood-curdling smile twisted onto his lips.
“Oh, I see you’ve noticed the presence of your father, Draco. So kind of you to inform him of your plans. Brave, but foolish, to try and deceive me.” He watched as Draco’s eyes darted to the outer circle. “Oh, they can’t get in. Not yet. They have to break through the shielding charm first.”
Draco glanced about, not seeing the invisible barrier, but knowing it was there. Fear suddenly engulfed him, and he was no longer able to muster control of himself. Voldemort stepped closer to him, wrenching back his hair and placing a hand softly on his throat. He smiled as the rush of memories and thoughts washed into him.
“Clever, Draco, but not clever enough.”
He looked down into Draco’s eyes, the glare burning into the back of his mind. “And who’s this? A Mudblood?” He sneered. “I’d never have thought it.”
Draco struggled furiously against the iron grasp on his mind. Voldemort looked at him for just a moment more, then threw him aside and walked back over to Harry, murmuring “Crucio,” as he pointed his wand carelessly over his shoulder.
Draco was suddenly aware of himself screaming, the pounding of blood in his veins, the pain that coursed through him like a thousand hot knives, piercing, scraping, scratching, prodding, stabbing . . . The sensation was awful, and he writhed of the ground in an attempt to get rid of it, but it had a hold on him, it wouldn’t go away . . .
When he thought he could last no more, the pain deserted him as quickly as it had come, and he lay there, gasping, tears streaking his cheeks. He brushed them away angrily, humiliated as well as furious. Ahead of him, Voldemort was ignoring him, as if he had forgotten he was still there. He was circling Potter; his eyes fixed on Harry’s, a battle of the wills.
Draco glanced aside and saw the Order, battling against the Protego charm that barred them all. For the while, the Death Eaters could do nothing but jeer and watch. Whilst the shield still stood, neither could fire curses at one another, but when it was broken, all hell would break loose.
Through his glassy eyes he could see his cousin, Tonks, her chosen form a sharply pointed face, scarlet flaming hair and anger-spitting amber eyes. Alongside her was his old third-year Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Lupin. There was no sign of Dumbledore.
“And so at last we come to the night of your death, Harry,” Voldemort was saying softly a small distance off, his voice softer than the wind but deadlier than a snake’s. “And this time, it will be official.”
Potter’s hands were still tied behind his back. Draco had to do something about that. He remembered the lessons they’d had this year, the ones involving practice of silent charms produced through the will of the mind. He swallowed, aware that although the Death Eaters’ attention was fixed on Potter, it could flick onto him at anytime. He swallowed, moving slowly forward on his stomach, eyes determined.
And then suddenly there was Dumbledore, walking casually through the forest trees to confront them, but when he saw the situation had changed his bright eyes were enflamed with a frightening anger. Draco saw his chance and pulled out his wand, hissing, “Finite Incentartum,” so that the invisible binding ropes around Potter’s wrists vanished completely, leaving the boy free. As the shielding charm shattered like glass at a simple quiet command to Dumbledore’s wand, Draco stood up and hastened forward, pulling out Harry’s wand and running to give it to him.
“Here – Potter!” His fingers touched Harry’s hands and the wand was passed onwards. Draco had time to see a glimmer of gratefulness before Voldemort turned to him with scarlet eyes. He shrunk from that glare, and Potter darted in front of him, his own wand held high now, an expression of furious determination on his face.
The words seemed to come slowly, the spell threading its way through the air in a blinding green light. Draco watched as the Dark Lord’s eyes began to widen and he opened his mouth to perform a shielding charm, but then the spell struck him hard in the chest and he went flying backwards, his face a widened picture of horror, so much so that if the circumstances were different it would have been comical.
Draco’s eyes slid over to Harry’s, and they met that gaze with mutual respect, but no trace of liking. It was up to the Order now; their job was done. The Dark Lord was gone, and all that was left was the fighting of his servants. True, it was easier said than done, but under the lead of Dumbledore, the Order seemed to be managing well. Many went down with a shower of spells, blood and screams, but to the boys, it was no longer their problem. Together, they had saved the world.
And that was it. Voldemort was dead. He died with a mask of hate across his hate, one so vivid and strong it was painful to behold. Yet he moved no longer, and in the darkening of the night, the moon was shrouded by a thick curtain of cloud, and the prophecy was complete.
Author's Note: One more chapter to go!! Please stay with me until the end.
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