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Choices That We Make by LilyEPotter
Chapter 3 : A Hollow Victory
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 2


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Author’s Note: Everything Harry Potter belongs to J. K. Rowling.

~~~

Death Eaters circled them smiling ruthlessly as they waited impatiently for their Master, watching with evil glee glowing in their eyes. Harry glared back at them; he still had his wand, but he couldn’t use it. He couldn’t even begin to concentrate on using any spell as he fought against the invisible bonds holding him tightly. He heard more Death Eaters laughing creepily, having their warped idea of fun in the distance.

Harry was furious with himself. After everything he had learned from Mad-Eye and everything he had taught to the members of the DA, he had run headlong into danger without even the smallest thought to what he could be facing. Why hadn’t he thought a Death Eater or four would be waiting at the door for them? Now all he could do was watch.

He would admit only to himself that his very first thought was wondering when the Order would arrive, until he remembered Professor Dumbledore’s death. Even he had to admit it was very possible that Dung was watching him – or else Dung was supposed to be watching him. He doubted his thoughts towards Dung would ever be too charitable. Especially as it was his fault that Dementors nearly Kissed both Dudley and himself. He had been forced to do magic in order to save both of them. Saving his cousin had gotten him expelled from Hogwarts, though only for a short time. Professor Dumbledore had managed to get it turned to a suspension pending a hearing. As if that hadn’t been bad enough, following Sirius’ death, Dung kept stealing anything of value from Grimmauld Place!

He still struggled against his unseen bonds as five more Death Eaters strolled into his view. One Death Eater held tightly to Aunt Petunia’s arm. Terror was etched on her face as she watched the destruction occurring around her by magic. Two more Death Eaters tightly held Uncle Vernon who was still trying to punch them. Both looked the worse for wear. Harry suspected that Uncle Vernon had managed to get a couple punches in before they caught him. It would be the only time that Harry would be proud of his Uncle Vernon – nearly winning a fight with Death Eaters. Two more held Dudley tightly, even though there was no need. Dudley, though fearsome when facing Muggles smaller than himself, was oddly quiet. Harry knew exactly why – Dudley was terrified of magic.

The Death Eaters let released them, stepping back quickly. Harry didn’t understand, at least not until his relatives began rising into the air as they flailed their arms and legs in a useless attempt to keep their balance. He tried to swallow as his insides went cold. He was being forced to watch Muggles spin like tops upside down in the air. It looked more grotesque now than it had at the World Cup just before his fourth year.

He watched in horror as a cloaked man appeared silently in front of him. He stood with his back to Harry as he watched the Muggles for a short time. The new-comer must have felt Harry’s glares because he turned to face Harry whose mouth went dry again. Voldemort stood in front of him where he couldn’t possibly be standing – not until he was of-age.

Voldemort casually looked over his three captives, ignoring the spinning Muggles in the air. “Too bad, you might have actually been a challenge to me, but now we’ll never know,” Voldemort waved his hand at Harry negligently.

Harry glared at Voldemort while he tried making his mind come to terms with Voldemort who was standing in front of him where he shouldn’t be. Not yet – not until he was of-age. “I’m not of-age yet,” Harry managed to snarl bitterly as he tried clenched his fists, “you aren’t allowed here.”

Voldemort remained silent as he looked around at the ring of Death Eaters who were all smirking then glanced up at the Muggles. Harry followed his eyes and noticed that his relatives were looking fairly green; spinning upside down couldn’t be very pleasant. Harry inwardly chuckled as he hoped Dudley would toss his cookies. “Set them down,” Voldemort snapped at the closest Death Eater. He must have noticed they were turning alarmingly green. “I want them to understand exactly what happens when people don’t obey me.”

Harry watched helplessly as they were lowered closer to the ground and then dropped. He tried not to wince as they landed in a heap on the ground. Aunt Petunia and Dudley cowered together but Uncle Vernon began shouting at the top of his lungs (as Harry half-expected he would).

“Silence!” Voldemort snapped. Uncle Vernon continued shouting but no sounds came from his mouth. Uncle Vernon stopped, puzzled, even as Aunt Petunia and Dudley whimpered softly. Voldemort gave them all a long look. “Sit,” he pointed his wand at Dudley. Uncle Vernon gave Voldemort a look of complete hatred, but started to sit next to Aunt Petunia. Harry could tell Uncle Vernon had been pushed too far when the Death Eaters began laughing at them. It was more than Uncle Vernon could take; he started to stand until Voldemort trained his wand on him. “I said, sit,” he stated dangerously soft, “good Muggle.”

Harry took advantage of Voldemort’s distraction to pull his wand out, keeping it hidden. Voldemort turned back to Harry. “What does it matter if you do magic so close to your birthday?” He glanced around with amusement.

Harry suggested he do something rather rude with himself that would have caused Ron and Hermione to gasp with shock had they been able. Voldemort chuckled even as the Death Eaters started grumbling. “I think you should learn to obey your betters,” he dropped all attempts of civility.

“Yeah? And I think you’re mental!” Harry spat.

“I think you’ll come to view my position in a much better light, but for now… Crucio!” Voldemort said almost lazily as Harry felt pain erupt throughout him. After what seemed forever, Voldemort pulled his wand back. “Your parents were foolish; they should have just given you to me. No one survives when I decide they die.” His voice grew more dangerous. He waved his wand at Dudley who began floating towards them, “Crucio!”

Dudley began screaming and twisting with pain as Uncle Vernon roared (though Harry only imagined the roar) as he rushed towards Voldemort, his fists swinging. He flew into the air before dropping. He landed hard on the ground and didn’t move. Harry saw one of the Death Eaters smirking as they lowered their wand. Aunt Petunia huddled as she whimpered. Harry turned back to watch Dudley’s twisting and writhing. Voldemort pulled his wand back. “What do you say, Harry? Should I put him out of his misery?”

Harry suggested he do something that would have caused Mrs. Weasley to gasp and threaten to wash his mouth out. Voldemort’s eyes flashed. “I expected better from a dead man,” his chuckles caused shivers to run through Harry, “but you’re not a man yet, are you? You’re still a boy and you will die a boy.” He glanced at Dudley. “He may live for the moment,” he turned back to Harry, “I know you have your wand. Bow to death.”

Harry stood straight, anger and hate flowing freely from him as he stared at Voldemort, but he refused to bow. Voldemort repeated himself, almost amused that a boy would even consider standing up against him. “I said, bow to death.”

“No,” Harry replied simply, his voice steel, “I refuse to bow.”

Voldemort considered him a moment before pointing his wand towards Dudley once more. Keeping his wand trained on Dudley, he looked at Harry. “I said, bow.” Harry felt torn, if he didn’t bow, Dudley would be hurt worse than he was now, perhaps killed. If he did bow, he’d be killed. He didn’t stop looking at Voldemort as Dudley began screaming. He chanced a glance at Dudley to see him lying on the ground.

Voldemort pointed his wand at Harry. Harry felt his will drifting away as whispers suggested he bow. He fought himself free and narrowed his eyes, surprising Voldemort. “I said, ‘I refuse to bow’.” His voice could have cut ice.

“Crucio!” Voldemort cried out as Harry writhed with pain. He didn’t see Voldemort pull his wand back. He breathed heavily as the pain racked through his body. He was supporting himself on his hands and knees as he tried to make his body respond to his own commands. He forced himself to take deep breaths, steadying breaths. He forced himself to stand and flinched as new pain erupted along his arm.

“Avada Kedavra!” Voldemort said idly. Harry took another deep breath as the green light raced towards him, forcing himself to remain standing instead of running like a Slytherin. He was in Gryffindor, after all, and if his dad could stand tall before death, so could he. The light passed by him. Voldemort made no move to cast another spell. Harry turned to look behind him to see a Death Eater lying on the ground, dead. Harry turned back to face Voldemort.

“Pick up your wand,” Voldemort commanded. Harry swallowed; fear began to creep over him. He kept Voldemort in view as he picked up his wand. Voldemort chuckled evilly. “Don’t worry; I’ll take good care of your relatives when you’re dead.” His smile turned cruel, his eyes glinted with dark promises.

Harry realized what spell he was going to use. Pain still coursed through him and he was bleeding. He glanced at Aunt Petunia with a look of sorrow and was surprised to see a look of regret on her face. Tears brimmed in her eyes. He had seen that look only one other time; when Dudley and he had been attacked by the Dementors. He turned his attention to Ron and Hermione. Their eyes showed their pain because they also knew what spell Voldemort would use. He nodded to them slightly, knowing they wouldn’t be able to help him this time. He turned his attention back to Voldemort. He still had a choice. He raised his wand; he wouldn’t go without at least trying to take Voldemort with him.

Voldemort laughed cruelly as he sent green light speeding towards Harry who didn’t flinch. Harry’s world turned green as whispers left his mouth as he fell. He didn’t hear the laughter as Voldemort disappeared, or the Death Eaters leaving behind the near total destruction of Privet Drive or the sirens in the distance growing louder as each moment passed.

Petunia looked at both Dudley and Harry in horror. Dudley hadn’t moved since Voldemort had hit him with the purple flames. Harry lay completely still since the green light had hit him and splintered off in shimmering streams of light. She realized that Ron and Hermione were still frozen in place. She whispered under her breath. With them free, she hurried over to Dudley to see what she could do. He lay with his eyes closed, but she was overjoyed to find he was still alive. The sirens grow louder. “The Medics will be here soon, Dudley. Hold on for Mummy.” She held his hand tightly.

Meanwhile, Ron and Hermione ran to Harry. Hermione touched Harry’s hand, surprised to find it already cold. “Enervate!” she cried, pointing her wand at him. Nothing happened. “Enervate!” Hermione cried again and again.

Ron pulled her away. “He’s gone, Hermione,” his voice cracked, “it’s done.” Hermione buried her head into his shoulder as he kept his arms wrapped about her, looking away from Harry’s still body. He couldn’t believe that his best mate was gone after everything they had been through. Tears welled up as he fought to keep the pain inside. He wanted it to be a huge joke. He wanted Harry to sit up, laughing at pulling off a prank.

Petunia glanced over at them. “Get your things and go. Now - before the Medics arrive.” Hermione looked up from Ron’s shoulder and sniffed. Petunia waved more firmly towards the house. “GO NOW.” Hermione finally nodded. She realized that Ron wouldn’t be able to answer any questions. He might even tell the police what they really didn’t need to know. She pulled Ron along with her as they hurried into the house where they quickly grabbed the last of their things. Her mouth twisted as Ron grabbed her arm tightly and they disappeared with a loud crack.

~*~

“Ma’am? Ma’am? Are you alright?”

Petunia was startled when one of the Medics started asking her questions. “My son, he’s hurt badly.”

“Yes, ma’am,” the man began looking over Dudley to see what need to be done.

Petunia remembered Harry then. She looked over to where he lay and couldn’t stifle the gasp when she saw he was missing. “Where’s my nephew?”

The man paused and looked around. “How old is your nephew?”

“My son’s age,” she replied weakly, “he’s got black hair and green eyes…”

“Sorry, I only see you, a man and your son,” The man turned his attention back to Dudley. Petunia’s face changed to one of worry. What had happened to Harry? She looked around as she tried to understand what had happened. She knew that the snake-looking man was the same man that had killed her sister and her husband. That was the same man that Harry was supposed to have destroyed when he was a baby. Harry had been telling the truth when he had told them that the man was back. She could only watch as they loaded Dudley into one of the ambulances and took him away.

She couldn’t leave yet, not with Vernon still here. He was being looked over by another Medic. She looked over the wall to take in the scene of destruction of what was once a nice neighborhood. So many ambulances stood waiting for their victims. There were many sheets in the front yards covering those that hadn’t survived the other robed men. Those who had were sobbing as they were helped.

Police crawled over the neighborhood as were the people from the Fire department. Some of the police were standing with their notebooks out taking notes from what the people told them. Others were helping the Medics get some of the victims into the ambulances and on their way to the hospital emergency room. More than one policeman was talking into their radios as the fire department fought the blazes the robed men had started.

“Ma’am? Are you alright?” One of the policemen caught her attention.

“What happened?” she asked. She didn’t know that such destruction could have been done in so short a time.

“They’re claiming men with sticks caused all this,” the policeman shook his head, “they’ll be doing a stint in the Psychiatrics. Men with sticks indeed,” He shook his head again. “I believe that Medic is waiting for you. Your husband, I believe?” Petunia nodded as the policeman helped her over to the ambulance. She climbed inside and sat where the Medic pointed to her.

~*~

Petunia returned home late that night. She couldn’t sleep, not after everything that happened. Vernon was fine, resting as comfortably as one could in a hospital. They had asked her if he’d perhaps fallen from the roof to which she agreed. She told them that he’d been checking on some shingles and slid off. Dudley’s injuries were harder to explain. She had finally blamed an intruder on Dudley’s condition. That he had fought with the intruder and was wounded so horribly.

The doctors at the hospital accepted her explanations as they were more than reasonable. Never mind the fact that her story didn’t match what happened or that her story didn’t match with other stories. Her story sounded sensible compared to the others. What man wouldn’t go on the roof to check out some shingles? And what roof wasn’t by nature treacherous? Weren’t so many people admitted to the hospital because they had fallen from their own roof? And the son injured trying to protect his mother. Wasn’t that noble?

Neither Vernon nor Dudley returned home with her because of their injuries. At least she was allowed into her house. Looking at the mess, she realized that she would be up far into the night cleaning the mess that was made by the people investigating what happened at Privet Drive, but she somehow couldn’t bring herself to clean just yet. Something bothered her. More correctly, someone bothered her. Her missing nephew, she was certain that he wasn’t going anywhere, but he had. Where did he go and how?

~*~

“Of all the…” Draco kicked the pile of leaves that had settled on the forest floor. He didn’t know where he was exactly, which wasn’t the problem. He only had one thought and that was to remain as far away as he could from his former Potions professor. That was the only reason he was in the middle of a forest instead of having found a comfortable place to sleep. There were only two problems. The first was that he had no tent and the second was that he had no food.

He had tried conjuring up a tent many times without success. He usually didn’t have trouble getting any of his spells to work, so he didn’t understand why this one refused to work for him. He knew what a tent was, anyone would know that. He had seen plenty of them at the Quidditch match before his fourth year, but why had the spell failed? Not only once, but multiple times?

The other more important problem was food. He hadn’t believed Professor McGonagall when she had explained that one couldn’t conjure food without food already being there. Something about Gamp’s Law or some such thing. It hadn’t been important to him except to answer correctly on an exam. Now, as he looked around him, he didn’t see anything he could eat, except for maybe the berries on the nearby bushes. Though on second thought, hadn’t he heard of poisonous berries? Perhaps he shouldn’t even try them. How did you tell if it was going to kill you or not?

He had gloated so many times at others who had less than him, but he was beginning to suspect they would have fared much better in this clearing than he was. “Why didn’t Father think this might be important one day?” Draco shouted, feeling better for just a moment before reality sank back in.

He sank to the ground. “This can’t get any worse.”

He learned another lesson that evening when it began raining.

~~~

Author’s Notes:

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this chapter. When I first began writing this story, I was posting around 1,000 words per chapter and so posted in two chapters what should have been posted as one. I have subsequently added more details to both chapters.

Thank you very much for your constructive criticism!


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