“Ennervate” was the first word I heard when I came to. His voice was waxy and slick, containing the pain and anguish of melted human flesh. I felt my blood rushing to my head, and opening my eyes, found myself hanging upside down in mid air, staring directly into the inky blackness of someone’s cloak. He raised my body higher until my face, although upside down, was level with his.
“Like to play games, do you?” asked the pale thin lipped man with blood red eyes. “Like to play make believe and pretend to be someone you’re not?”
My breath caught in my throat. I wracked my brains for Father’s advice. He must have always known deep down I’d end up in a situation like this. “When facing the Dark Lord, always maintain eye contact. Do not speak unless spoken to. Answer any question he asks you. Do not make yourself appear to be weak – for the Dark Lord can not stand weaklings. But also make it clear that he has your utmost respect, for he is your Lord and holds your fate in his hands.”
“I must admit that I am surprised at you, Draco.” He grinned maliciously, and I didn’t miss the way he’d called me by my name instead of my number. “I’d had such high expectations for you. Who would have thought the only son of my most trusted and experienced supporter would resort to this? A murderer of his own kind and a traitor to me.”
My eyelids fluttered as my gaze desperately fought to drift away from his disconcerting stare. His eyes were the deepest shade of scarlet I had ever seen, boring holes into me like open bloody wounds. “What do you have to say for your insolence, Young Malfoy?”
“Answer any question he asks you.” My father’s words swam through my mind. I opened my mouth to speak, my head pounding from dangling upside down in the air, and spat, “I am not my father.”
“What a shame,” said the Dark Lord, his eyes now thin luminescent slits. “You are a disgrace to your father. I told him to disassociate himself with you that night you couldn’t kill Dumbledore, you know. But he insisted that you would change …”
I missed the rest of his speech and his words turned into a whirlwind of unintelligible sounds. My breath hitched. I was supposed to kill Dumbledore? The things that can happen over two years …
“So,” I said softly, cutting him off, “I didn’t kill him, then?”
The Dark Lord appeared to be shocked at first, as though he couldn’t believe someone had interrupted him. Then, he laughed manically. “You? You couldn’t kill a filthy Muggle if one walked up to your face and asked you to. You, Draco Malfoy, are weak, and as worthless as the life you couldn’t take that lies below you.”
My eyebrows formed one thin line across my brow as I eyed him skeptically. Before I could ask what rubbish he was speaking of, he flicked his wand and a low guttural groan rumbled below me.
In that moment, I forgot all about maintaining eye contact and broke our gaze, craning my neck as far back as I could to see the ground below me. And then I gasped.
“Professor Dumbledore,” I whispered in awed fascination as his body twitched every few seconds. He was hardly at arms length below me, but as I tried to let my arms flop below my head to reach him, I found my arms stuck to my sides.
His eyes were closed, his face scratched and bruised. His usual over elaborate robes had been replaced with no more than the disgusting dirty pillow cases given to the students in the dungeon, and his once long sleek beard was now a tangled mess of straggly and matted hair. “He’s alive,” I said in no more than a whisper.
“Hardly,” said the Dark Lord, a merciless smirk gracing his thin pale lips. And then he raised his foot high in the air and sent it plummeting down over Dumbledore’s face. There was a sickening crack, and blood oozed from the old man’s hooked nose.
“Professor!” I shouted, my voice echoing around the circular room and bouncing off the high and dark domed ceiling. “What have you done to him?” I demanded, hoping my voice sounded more confident than I felt.
“Nothing too damaging,” the Dark Lord grinned at my rage and turned Dumbledore’s bloodied face from side to side with his foot. “Just driven him to insanity, is all. Oh, he’s been waiting for you, though. I believe there was something he wanted to say to you; used to babble it in his sleep like the blubbering old fool he is. Wake up, old man.” He gave a powerful kick to Dumbledore’s side, and his sharp ice blue eyes fluttered open.
“Professor,” I whispered when his wide eyes found mine, ashamed after the cruel way I’d treated him for so many years – ashamed that I had it in me to attempt to murder him.
“Ah, Albus,” the Dark Lord sneered. “Look who’s come to see you. You remember Draco Malfoy, don’t you? But of course you do – he’s the one who let my Death Eaters into Hogwarts to capture you.”
An icy shiver convulsed through my body. I let Death Eaters into the castle. This was entirely my fault. I turned my head away, unable to look at the sad and broken man below me.
“Come now, Albus. You must remember all the things you desired so badly to tell him. How you knew what he was plotting all year and don’t hold him accountable for his father’s foolish decisions … how you forgive him … how you know he has such potential and see him doing great things …”
I felt tears burning the corners of my eyes. Don’t cry! I scolded myself, fighting to push them back in. The Dark Lord can not stand weakness.
“And Draco, I must confess my confusion. Are those … are those tears I see?”
I turned my head away from him, cursing myself for my lack of bravery and my shame.
“But this is what you wanted!” he exclaimed, his words sizzling from his mouth like acid. “He’s a Muggle- lover, Draco. What good is he?”
What good is he? What good is he? Without Dumbledore, the Wizarding world will turn to complete and utter chaos. Hell, what was I thinking? It already has turned to chaos. Without Dumbledore, no one is safe, Wizard and Muggle alike.
“What did Muggle-loving Dumbledore ever offer you that I didn’t, Draco?”
My head shot up to meet his red gaze. I didn’t know he’d ever offered me anything. Sixth year must have been very … interesting.
“I asked you a question, Draco. What is so good about this filthy old man?”
My neck strained backward. Dumbledore looked so lost and confused, like a young child missing from his parents in Diagon Alley. Finally, he opened his mouth. His voice was hoarse and unexercised. “I think I know you from somewhere.”
I slowly nodded, trying not to let my guilt bring me to tears again.
“I think I liked you,” he croaked, a cough tearing through his throat shortly after.
And then the tears came. It was useless to try to stop them. All those years, and I’d thought the only student in Hogwarts he ever liked was Potter. “I’m so sorry, Professor,” my voice cracked.
“Oh, this is pitiful!” the Dark Lord shrieked, and then shouted a spell. Dumbledore’s body squirmed below me, his mouth open in a silent scream, his throat too raw to let out another sound.
“What are you doing to him?”
“Handy little spell the real Advanced students created,” he explained while holding his wand at Dumbledore’s writhing body. “Want to know what it does, Draco?” and before I could answer, he said, “It turns the very blood running through your veins to boiling hot volcanic lava. Slow and painful death, that’s what this is.”
There was nothing I could do for Albus Dumbledore. He died before my very eyes, a deep orange bubbling ooze erupting from his mouth after his last breath.
Before I’d even had time to register what had just occurred below me, the Dark Lord flicked his wand again and I collapsed face first on top of Dumbledore’s dead body with an incoherent grunt. I lifted my face to meet my former Headmaster’s – his hauntingly vacant blue stare piercing into my eyes. I was frozen, my mouth agape, my cheeks stained with a sticky wet trail.
And then I was being roughly hauled upward by an invisible force grabbing the back of my shirt collar. “Don’t worry,” the Dark Lord rasped into my ear, “You’ll be joining the Muggle-lover soon.” Then he smiled, and a cold thin silver chain appeared around my neck. I reached up to finger the cold metal and felt it begin to tighten around my neck. I gasped and released it at once.
The Dark Lord’s satisfied smile was so wide it almost reached his blood red eyes. “Do not think to disobey me, Draco, for the chain will know. Now,” he touched the chain, gently rolling it between his thumb and index finger, “Join your fellow classmates.”
There were no questions to be asked. I stood perplexed for a short moment wondering where he wanted me to go when the chain began to wrap itself snake like around my flesh. My hands instinctively went to the necklace, but the more I tried to pull it loose, the tighter it wrapped.
And then two large double doors swung open, and in marched all of the students who had been imprisoned inside of the cell in the dungeon.
“Go,” the Dark Lord demanded.
I obeyed. The chain slackened.
No one looked at me as I approached them. They sulked into the dark circular room, their wrists tethered together in front of them and each wearing a similar chain around their necks to my own. My eyes scanned the students. I found Longbottom’s eyes. He discreetly nodded his head to the side, and upon following the direction of his silent gesture, I found Hermione.
She was standing closely next to Potter, Weasely, and the Weaselette. The four of them huddled together, as though afraid to leave each other’s sides even for a moment. And it was then that Potter’s eyes found the body of Dumbledore, his dearly beloved Headmaster. He left his friends and darted to the front of the crowd, resisting Hermione’s hand that had reached out to stop him.
“Professor Dumbledore!” he exclaimed, breaking the silence that engulfed the room. And then his hands went to his neck, and I knew what was happening. I was so occupied with watching Potter as he strangled himself to death, too stubborn to obey the Dark Lord, that I hadn’t noticed when a hand was suddenly wrapped around my own.
Hermione’s face was buried in the crook of my neck, her shoulders heaving. I squeezed her hand tightly, wishing for Hermione’s sake that Potter would just let go of his pride for one damn day and listen to the beast before him.
“Harry Potter,” drawled the Dark Lord, his eyes on Potter and Potter only. “How I’ve waited for this day. But not to worry; I shan’t kill you just yet.”
Potter fell to the ground gasping for air. The chain around his neck had loosened, although a thin red line now creased around the skin of his neck. It didn’t take him long to clamber to his feet and stare into the Dark Lord’s eyes – brilliant emerald meeting the striking crimson.
“Now be a good little boy and get back down, Harry. Did I tell you that you could stand up?” When Potter made no move to obey his order, he lifted his wand high above his head and pointed it at Potter. “I said get down.”
Potter’s whole body twitched, as if he were fighting off the magic bending his bones and pulling his muscles. And then his knees collided with the hard ground below him, and after a fair amount of struggling, his nose was soon squashed to the black marble floor.
“Bow! All of you!” The Dark Lord demanded, and we all did immediately.
My entire face was pushed into the floor. It was cold beneath my nose. I shivered. And then the Dark Lord spoke. “Do you know why I’ve requested each of you in my presence tonight? Do you wonder why I’ve shown such mercy and taken you out of that dungeon? I shall tell you. And after I tell you, I will kill each and every one of you. Do not think to escape, children. For your savior Dumbledore is dead, and this one here –” he paused, and I stole at glance at him. He was looking at Potter. “The boy who lived. The Chosen One. See how he bows down to me in submission? In defeat? Harry Potter can not save you anymore. You will die here on your knees before me, but not until after I share with you my story of power and success.”
And then an ultra strong jet of water with the force of thousands of tiny rocketing bullets came pelting down upon us. There were gasps and screams across the room. My mouth hung open in silent protest. The water was so cold it almost burned. The force of it alone nearly knocked me off of my knees. My fringe hung over my brow, slopping and dripping wet over my eyes.
“Refreshing, no?” asked the Dark Lord, and then continuing his saga, said, “It was years ago when I first came to the idea of cloning the students of Hogwarts. I needed to build an army, seemingly from scratch. I could hardly recruit all of you, after the things you know and have experienced in your short lives. But if I could only replicate your strong young bodies with clean slates for brains – brains I could mold into whatever I wanted. How better than to clone you?” He laughed at his own ingenious plan. “All I had to do, was find out how to take over Hogwarts. It proved to be a much easier task than I expected, thanks to one of your very own classmates. Bravo, Draco Malfoy, for it is he who gave my Death Eaters access into Hogwarts last year which resulted in the capture – and now death – of the once powerful Albus Dumbledore.”
My stomach gave a sickening lurch. I couldn’t glance up from the floor. The shame was too much to bear. But Hermione’s thumb was rubbing small consoling circles over my palm. How could she? After everything she knew about me … I was a monster. I could hardly forgive myself for what I’d done. How could she find it anywhere inside of her to forgive me?
“After overpowering Hogwarts, gaining power over the Ministry of Magic was fairly simple, with Dumbledore gone,” continued the Dark Lord. “And so the plan unfolded. And we brainwashed you all into thinking magic does not exist to weaken you and break you and make you feel as insignificant as the sponge brains you are. Your clones, on the other hand, were taught state of the art Dark Magic, as I’m sure you all know and have even experienced the effects of.”
I thought of the day I’d been forced to torture Potter. Yes. They all knew pain. Another shot of an overwhelming force of water sprayed down on us. I felt my skin red and burning from its strength and shivered from the icy chill. I inhaled deeply and choked on the water from the deep puddles on the floor that went up my nose.
And then the Dark Lord called on the names of his Death Eaters. “Come out,” he demanded. “You all deserve congratulations for all your hard work and efforts to put my plans into effect.”
Father was the first to walk through the double doors, his chest puffed out as he proudly strode between our bowed bodies and made his way to the Dark Lord. And then came Amycus, Alecto, and Filch, each sporting proud expressions. And then, a girl followed closely behind them. She was a young girl, with long flowing pale blonde hair and wide grey eyes, looking terribly out of place among the line of Death Eaters.
“Lovegood,” I whispered, and felt my chain begin to tighten almost immediately. But I didn’t care about the pressure around my neck, for the only thing I could think of was eccentric Luna “Loony” Lovegood, and how the hell she ended up among their ranks.
“Ah, Luna, without whom none of this would have been possible,” the Dark Lord drawled, and my mouth hung open so wide that the water from the floor flowed through my lips. I spat it out and shook my head, once, twice, three times …
But no matter how many times I attempted to shake the image, Lovegood was still standing beside the Dark Lord, a dreamy smile creasing her pink lips.
“She’s a good little actress, wouldn’t you agree?” asked the Dark Lord, to the agreement of the other Death Eaters surrounding him. “For it was she who was my spy, making sure to inform me of everything she saw and heard among all of you when you were still Average students. It was she who informed me of a very specific note she discovered between Miss Granger and Mr. Malfoy, leading to their discovery in the dungeon. It was she who informed the Carrows of Mr. Malfoy’s noble attempt to save Miss Granger from the Dream Catcher.”
I did not look up at him, but I could feel his stare boring holes into the top of my bowed head. Hermione scooted closer to me.
“How sweet,” said the Dark Lord. “Young love. I think I shall let them spend their last moments together, yes?”
I don’t know what came as more of a shock, the fact that he’d agreed to not separate Hermione and I or that he’d referred to both of us in the same sentence with the word “love.”
“And now,” said the Dark Lord, his voice suddenly dark and low, “It is your blood that I desire. You see, taking the blood of such a large amount of magical beings at one time will make me stronger. And when I am stronger, so are my Death Eaters. And when my Death Eaters are stronger, it will mean we are closer to fulfilling the goal of the Cause – to create a perfect and Muggle free world. And for the spill of your blood, I shall require the help of my very own creations. Your clones.”
And through the tall double doors, a stampede of hundreds of feet stomped across the cold marble floor, swished through the ankle deep puddles of water, and only stopped when they formed a perfect line behind the Dark Lord. I did not look up to see the clones. Hermione’s whole body was shaking uncontrollably beside me, and at that moment, all I wanted to do was put my arm around her until her body calmed.
“Beautiful creatures, aren’t they?” I looked up. The Dark Lord was walking down the line of them and admiring each in turn. “They are everything each of you are – only more. They are everything you could never be, for the blood running through their veins is no match for yours. Of course, each clone does possess its identical human’s blood. But there is more there.” He picked up Hermione’s clones wrist and ran his pale skeletal finger down the long vein there. “It is my blood, as well.”
He whirled around again to face us, his black cloak billowing behind him, and I bent my head low to the ground once more, holding my breath because I knew what was coming. This time when the water hit, Hermione knocked over onto me. She scrambled to right herself, but her bound hands in front of her must have made it difficult to balance. I guess her nervous shaking body wasn’t helping matters much either.
“Are you okay?” I whispered through chattering teeth. The biting cold stung at my red and raw skin.
She shook her head frantically from side to side, her usually frizzy hair now wet and pin straight to her head. She looked at me, long glistening strands of hair veiling her eyes and with a shaking voice, whispered, “Hold my hand.”
I took both of her bound hands in mine at once, holding on as if my very life depended on it. Actually, my life did depend on it. Her hands were the only source of survival I had left. I felt like if she were to let go of me, I would cease to exist right there. She was the thin strand of thread holding me to life. She was my excuse to be strong and stay alive for just another moment longer. I held on tighter.
And then a small stuttering sound left Hermione’s lips. Her hands were quivering beneath mine. My head shot up at her words, for I was sure I’d just heard her say …
“I love you, Draco,” she said again, confirming the voice of denial in my ears. She was still looking at the water on the ground beneath her.
“Hermione.” She didn’t meet my eyes. I let go of her hand and touched her chin. Her head followed the direction of my touch until we were seeing eye to eye. She was shivering, her lips blue from the cold.
“I do,” she said in a cracked and broken voice. “I love you.”
The Dark Lord was going on another endless speech rampage, as if we all really cared about how he’d gotten us all here when we were going to die anyway. But I wasn’t listening to him. I was staring unblinkingly at Hermione from my bent and uncomfortable position on the floor. She couldn’t love me. What did she mean, she loves me? No one can love me. I am a monster. A murderer. I have taken lives, and as far as I was concerned, every death that was about to take place in this very room was my fault. No one could ever love me, least of all someone as pure as Hermione Granger.
I let my finger slip away from her chin. “Impossible,” I said, and dropped my gaze to the floor, looking at my disoriented reflection in the puddles of water.
“You’re a good person, Draco.”
“How do you know?”
A moment of silence passed between us, with the Dark Lord’s drawling voice like a blurred whirlwind in the background. “You came back,” she said. I looked up to her face. Her breath was coming out in short and sharp gasps, but she managed to smile through it.
Somewhere in the distance, there was a loud bang. I didn’t look to see what it was, for Hermione was still staring at me with such intensity and strength and life in her eyes that to look away for a moment would have been detrimental to my own survival. It was the gasps and screams of the students around us that made both our heads snap back to reality.
“Daddy!” Lovegood was running past us, splashing through the water, until she fell to her knees on the side of a body lying on the ground. He was dead. It was the man in the white coat, with white hair and crossed grey eyes. The man who I had seen in the dungeon so many times was Lovegood’s father …
“Xeonophilius,” the Dark Lord said, walking forward a few steps with a look of confusion on his stretched and pale face.
And then another body was hurled through the doors, looking like a big black raven flapping through mid air. Snape. He landed in a twisted angle, his limbs askew, and a growling red liquid pool flowing from a slash in his black cloak near his abdomen. Someone had killed these two men, and whoever did it did not use magic.
“Who has done this?” shouted the Dark Lord, his wand drawn and ready. “Show yourself! I demand you!”
Everyone’s eyes were glued to the doors, watching for whose body would be flung through next, or to see if the perpetrator of the crime would be so brave (or stupid, if you ask me) to step up and reveal their identity.
“Show yourself now!” the Dark Lord bellowed menacingly. I shuddered for whoever was standing outside the door with blood on their hands, for it would be he who the Dark Lord would kill before any of us.
There was a clicking sound on the ground outside of the room. Click, click, clop, click, clip, clop, clip, clop …
“Put down your wand and step into the room!” The Dark Lord’s voice was beginning to sound panicked, almost afraid. The clopping sound continued. And then, it slowed, and all was eerily silent for a long moment. I scrutinized the Dark Lord’s expression, his eyes narrow in contemplation and perhaps even fear.
And then there was a sound which could only be described as an explosion as a mass of brown fur erupted through the doors in a torrent. I shook my head to clear my vision, even tried blinking my eyes. But when I opened them again, I was still staring into a big, brown, furry blob.
The Dark Lord screamed, and a jet of green light found the stampeding beasts. One fell to the ground, but the others did not care, nor did they stop. They continued surging through the room in all different directions – there must have been at least fifty of them.
It didn’t take me long to figure out that the brown animal lying dead on the ground was that of a centaur, his long legs and hooves splayed about him, his human face contorted into a sneer of loathing that would have even made my father jealous.
The students on the ground screamed, their bound hands flying over their heads for protection from the violent crushing hooves. And then came the Dark Lord’s demands over the chaos, ordering the clones to attack at once.
“Stay down!” I screamed to Hermione, although I doubted she was going anywhere to begin with. The hooves clomped past us, hardly missing our bodies, brilliant jets of green light seemed to be being tossed about the room haphazardly every which way, shrilled screams sounded from the entire perimeter of the circular room, and then there was a hand on the back of my collar dragging me into a standing position.
“Hey, what do you think you’re –”
My breath hitched in my throat, my words left dangling and unfinished in the air, only to evaporate like a misty cloud of smoke. I was staring at myself.
“This is impossible,” I shouted. “My clone is dead!”
The boy staring back at me shook his head incredulously. “I’m not the clone, git!” Then he turned to a replica of Hermione and asked, “Was I really that thick headed at fifteen?” He turned back to face me and thrust a piece of parchment into my hands. “You’ll understand later. But for now, you have to get out of here before you both get yourselves bloody killed.”
Hermione’s replica, who apparently wasn’t a clone, stepped in. “You have to go back to 1995. If you do, you can change everything so that none of this happens in the future.” And then she gave me a necklace with a small silver pendent of an hourglass dangling from the chain.
“You can’t very well do that if you’re dead, now can you?” asked the boy who was supposedly me.
“But how did you … no, no – Who are you?” I demanded.
The older looking and much drier Hermione appeared to be agitated. “Just go before all the centaurs are dead! They’ve agreed to sacrifice their lives to get you and me – Hermione back. The diversion can only last for so long!” She looked at the other Draco then, and asked, “God, how did I ever fall in love with you?” The other Draco smiled.
There was a smash, a flash of green light, and a centaur, not even at arms length away from me, fell to the ground dead. I ducked down low and suddenly understood. It was us – Hermione and I – from the future. From now. From 1997. It was the us who ran away. And they – we – really were in love.
I folded the piece of parchment that the future Draco had given to me and stuck it carelessly into the pocket of my soaked slacks as I clutched the time turner in my hands, wondering how on earth they’d found it.
“Hermione!” I called on my hands and knees. But Hermione was gone.
My eyes scanned the room in desperation. Students and clones and centaurs were at each other’s throats in a bloody rage. “Hermione!” I stood up at once and ran to her. She was in the process of battling her own clone. And then they fell to the ground and became suddenly meshed together into one mess of flying hair and grabbing fists and scratched skin. I dragged Hermione away from her clone, even though she was still kicking and screaming through the deep puddles splattering the ground.
Finally separating the two, I bent down to Hermione’s side and entwined the long thin silver chain around both our necks. The necklace from the Dark Lord was beginning to squeeze around my throat. It was too tight now, I could hardly breathe. I spun the time turner around backwards as much as I had turned it forward so many months ago, and together, Hermione and I were spinning on the spot through a sea of devastated confusion and chaos. My head suddenly felt heavy from the dizziness and nausea overwhelming me, and when it was over, I let myself fall back to the ground, Hermione lying in a heap on top of me.
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