* * *
By the time the Dark Lord ordered Draco to stand up, Draco wasn’t sure if his legs would ever actually support him again. He pushed himself to his knees and spent a few precious seconds trying to calm his panting breaths. Then, with a grimace, he made himself rise and stood as straight as he could, even going so far as lifting his chin so he could meet the Dark Lord’s eyes.
“Very good, Draco,” the Dark Lord said, pale fingers running up and down his wand. “You understand why I had to do that, of course.”
“Yes, my lord,” Draco said woodenly.
“I don’t like punishing my followers,” the Dark Lord continued, stepping past Draco as he spoke. “But I expect things to be done in a certain manner and you disappointed me. That sort of behavior is unacceptable.”
“Yes, my lord,” Draco said again. “It’s an honor to serve you, I shouldn’t have – abused your faith in me like that.”
“As long as you keep seeing things my way.” He sounded farther away now, which meant he was probably standing near Weasley. Draco let out a slow breath and hoped Weasley’s resolve held up. “Don’t mistake me, Draco, I am still pleased. After all, look at what you brought me.” Something in his voice shifted, and Draco could swear he sounded almost…happy. Which was fucking terrifying.
Draco turned around and only managed to take a few steps forward before he had to stop again. “What are you going to do with him, my lord?” he asked, fighting back a wince.
The Dark Lord was eyeing Weasley hungrily. “I wonder…” he said softly. He seemed to deliberate for a few seconds, and then – “Release him from the curse, Draco.”
Draco hesitated, on the verge of asking if he was certain, but the Dark Lord was always certain. So instead he hobbled a few steps closer to Weasley and raised his wand, making a jerky little motion with it.
As they had practiced, Weasley seemed to come alive all at once. He blinked several times and took a step back, eyes going wide as they darted from the Dark Lord to the room they were in before they finally landed on Draco. “Malfoy,” he gasped out, stumbling in his direction and patting down his pockets at the same time. “What’s this, what happened? Where the hell are we?” He made it to Draco’s side, still searching for his wand, and looked back at the Dark Lord with a guarded expression. “Where’s my wand?” he asked warily, and the Dark Lord chuckled.
“You won’t be needing it,” he said smoothly.
Weasley’s hands clenched into fists. “Tell me what’s going on,” he demanded, and then shot Draco a look out of the corner of his eyes. “Malfoy, how did we – why is Voldemort here?” He said it perfectly, no tripping over any of the syllables or wincing as the name left his mouth. Draco took a moment to be relieved that they had practiced that part alone for a good hour or so.
Something large and thick slid past Draco’s leg and both he and Weasley jumped. Nagini merely flicked her tongue at them as she slithered by. She curled up by her master’s side, lifting her head until she was level with the Dark Lord’s hand, which he gently ran over her scales. “You’re asking all the wrong questions,” he said. And then, still watching Weasley with a cruel sort of amusement, he tilted his head down a bit and whispered something to Nagini.
In the sharp, raspy hisses of Parseltongue.
Draco felt as though the bottom had dropped out of his stomach.
The Dark Lord was watching Weasley expectantly, and when he didn’t get any immediate reaction, his eyes narrowed.
Weasley, to his credit, quickly realized the Dark Lord was waiting for him to do something and tried to recover. “What are you saying to–” he started to demand, only it was exactly the wrong thing and he realized it as soon as the words made it past his lips. His mouth snapped shut and he directed a panicked look toward Draco, but Draco was busy watching as the Dark Lord’s face tightened, his mouth drawing down into a deep frown and his eyes lighting up with a furious flare.
“Draco,” he said, barely controlled anger boiling under the surface of his tone. “You said you brought me Harry Potter.”
“I – I did!” Draco said, but it was no use and he knew it. Fucking snake, fucking Parseltongue, he hadn’t ever considered that the Dark Lord might try talking to them in that language!
“Malfoy…” Weasley mumbled, backing up a step. His hand reached out to grab Draco’s sleeve, something that the Dark Lord spotted right away.
“Shut up,” Draco hissed, but he was backing up, too, as the Dark Lord started toward them, his teeth bared in an angry snarl.
“Wand!” Weasley whispered frantically. “Wand, wand, wand!”
The Dark Lord raised his arm above his head. “Draco Malfoy,” he snarled, and Draco threw caution to the wind and shoved Harry’s wand into Weasley’s hand.
Weasley didn’t hesitate. He only spared the time to mutter a quick, “Brace yourself,” to Draco before he pointed the wand straight at Nagini and bellowed, “SECTUMSEMPRA!”
Instantly, a high pitched shrieking sound cut through the air as the spell sliced straight through Nagini and severed her head clean off. A black cloud exploded from the rest of her body, which fell limply to the floor and twitched a few times before going still.
“NOOO!” Voldemort roared, curling in on himself at the exact moment a burning hot pain took hold of Draco’s arm. He cried out and probably would have fallen to his knees, but suddenly Weasley was there, grabbing hold of his other arm and dragging him along as he sprinted out of the room.
“Run!” Weasley yelled. “Come on, ignore it and move your feet, Malfoy, let’s go!”
Draco clenched his teeth and did as told, concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other as they ran down the corridor. They passed a couple other Death Eaters along the way, all of whom were clutching their own arms and looking startled. Draco vaguely wondered why they weren’t doubled over in pain, but then he realized that they farther they got from the room – and from the Dark Lord – the more the pain lessened.
“Where’s Potter?” Draco asked, throwing a glance over his shoulder. No one was following them yet, which had to be some kind of miracle. It wouldn’t be long before someone noticed it was Harry bloody Potter who was running mad through the place.
“How should I know?” Weasley said. “He hasn’t tried to get in contact with us yet.”
“Brilliant,” Draco muttered. They ran past an empty room and Draco skidded to a stop, quickly backtracking and calling for Weasley to return. “I just need a minute,” he said, panting, and Weasley nodded.
“Are you alright?” he asked, the second he got the door shut. “Fuck, Malfoy, I know we said that might happen but I was about to – if he’d kept you under that curse for any longer–”
“No,” Draco interrupted. “You did exactly what you should have.”
Weasley scowled. “Which was absolutely nothing.”
“Exactly,” Draco said. “Not that it mattered in the end. Bloody Parseltongue – what the hell was that about?”
“Seriously.” Weasley leaned back against the wall. “I got the feeling he was telling her she could eat me or something.”
“Now there’s a lovely thought.”
“We probably should have been prepared for that.”
“We covered every other bloody scenario,” Draco groused. He clenched and unclenched his hand a couple times, and then gingerly took a few steps toward the center of the room.
“Alright?” Weasley asked again. He actually sounded worried.
Draco waved him off. “Fine,” he said. “I have to be. We can’t just stay in here.”
“I wonder what Harry’s doing.”
Draco snorted. “I’ll tell you what he’s not doing,” he said. “He’s not off killing any great dirty snakes.” Then he paused, and his eyes widened. “Merlin, Weasley – you just destroyed a Horcrux!”
Weasley blinked. “Yeah…” he said slowly. Then he grinned. “I did, didn’t I? Wow. Although, did you hear what he said? About–”
“I really don’t want to think about that right now,” Draco cut in. “At all. And we should probably get a move on anyway.”
“Right.” Weasley nodded. “We don’t want to be trapped in here if some Death Eaters come bursting in. Disillusionment Charms on, I think.”
They cast the spell on themselves, and then in the middle of reaching for the door, Draco yelped and jerked his hand back.
“What is it?” Weasley asked quickly.
Draco grimaced. “Dark Mark,” he said. “He’s called the others to attention – probably so he can send them out to find us.”
“Great,” Weasley grumbled, and then he carefully pulled the door open. “Hermione’s right, a map of this place would be dead useful right now. It’s bigger than I thought.”
“Just go,” Draco said exasperatedly. “We have to find Potter.”
* * *
Harry knew the instant something went wrong because his scar all but exploded.
By some stroke of fate, he had just left the room with Lucius, Nott, and Wormtail behind, so no one was there to see him when he stumbled backwards into a wall and slid to the floor.
He remained curled up with his fists pressed against his forehead for a long minute before the pain abruptly faded away. Scowling at nothing in particular, he struggled to his feet again. That had felt just like–
Harry froze, his eyes going wide.
Just like it had when they’d destroyed the last Horcrux.
He shot a quick look up and down the hall and then yanked the Invisibility Cloak off and stuffed it away. It couldn’t mean anything good if Ron and Draco had just killed Nagini on their own; there was no way they could still be fooling Voldemort. Harry needed to find them and he needed to find them fast. The cloak would only get in the way and their cover was well past blown now anyway.
He hoped Dobby was almost finished getting the wards down.
* * *
“Whose brilliant idea was it to leave the room again?!” Draco shouted, as he and Weasley hightailed it down the hallway.
“Shut up!” Weasley yelled back. He fired a spell over his shoulder. “It seemed logical at the time!”
Not far behind them were three Death Eaters, the names of whom had escaped Draco. He and Weasley hadn’t been sneaking around for more than two minutes before they came upon them. Draco was fairly certain their Disillusionment Charms were the only reason the Death Eaters couldn’t get a clear shot off.
“Besides, I’m pretty sure you agreed with me, Malfoy!”
Draco scowled and ducked as a spell went flying over his head and ricocheted off the wall, making a cascade of dirt and splinters rain down on them. He spotted a corridor up ahead and sped up to get to it. “Here!” he said, and he and Weasley took a sharp right. Draco threw open the nearest door and was confronted with a set of stairs.
“I’m not sure going up a level is going to help our case any,” Weasley panted.
“We don’t have much of a choice,” Draco said, as the first Death Eater rounded the corner. “Go!” They pounded up the stairs and ended up in another long, dreary hallway with several doors lining the sides.
Weasley swore under his breath. “This place is a bloody maze,” he said, as they took off running yet again.
“It’s nearly as big as the manor,” Draco said. Fuck, he’d do anything for a broom right now. His side was killing him and he was starting to have trouble sucking down enough air. They chose a random door on the left and ducked inside, only to find themselves staring down yet another corridor.
“You know, I think this house might actually be cursed,” Weasley said.
Draco shot him an exasperated look. “No, really?”
“I’m serious!” Weasley pulled open one of the doors and found an empty room behind it. “Watch.” He shut the door, waited for a few seconds, and then opened it again.
Now there was a hallway on the other side with a single, flickering light at the other end.
“…Bugger,” Draco muttered, and Weasley nodded.
“It’s like that story,” he said.
Draco frowned. “Which?”
“Can’t remember what it was called. It wasn’t a Bard tale, though.”
“That’s the one.”
Draco shook his head. “My mother didn’t like his work much, so I don’t know them as well.”
“Mum wasn’t really a fan either,” Weasley said. “But anyway, it was something about these kids snooping around and they ended up getting lost in this big old house – I can’t remember how they got out. And there was a moral shoved in somewhere towards the end.”
“Oh, well that’s useful,” Draco said dryly.
Weasley rolled his eyes. “At least now we know.”
“Fat lot of good it’s going to do us, too.”
“Shut it, Malfoy, no one asked for your snark.” He took a step into the dim corridor. “Should we go this way?”
“I suppose,” Draco said, though he looked doubtful. “The elf better hurry the hell up with those wards.”
“I’m sure Dobby is working on them as we speak,” Weasley said. Draco opened his mouth to reply, but he didn’t get the chance to because the Carrow siblings chose that moment to come charging around the corner.
“There!” Alecto cried. “That’s them, isn’t it?”
“Dark, creepy corridor it is, come on!” Draco said quickly, and off they went.
“Dark’s probably better anyway, yeah?” Weasley said. “Makes it even harder to see us. Stupefy!”
“Given that we’re rampaging around up here like a herd of hippogriffs – Impedimenta! – I hardly think it matters that we’ve gone bloody chameleon.”
They made it to the end of the hallway, only to find that from there it headed off in two different directions.
“Split up!” Weasley said. “I got left.”
“You – wait, what?” Draco cried.
Draco let out a frustrated sound and tore off down the hall on the right. “Stupid, idiotic tosser – bloody Gryffindor,” he muttered under his breath, before yelling back over his shoulder, “How is this supposed to help us?!”
Unfortunately, looking over his shoulder while sprinting was not Draco’s greatest idea, and he ended up running straight into another body while his head was turned.
“Ow – fuck – Stupef–”
“Expelliarmus,” Snape interrupted swiftly, catching Draco’s wand when it came flying through the air toward him. He grabbed Draco by the shoulder before he could even begin to form a coherent sentence and shoved him into a nearby room. The door slammed shut behind them.
“Professor–!” Draco started to say, but Snape quickly held a finger up to his lips in a silencing gesture. He waited a few seconds until the sound of footsteps running past the door faded, and then he turned to face Draco.
“What the hell are you all doing here?”
Draco frowned and crossed his arms over his chest. “Oh, you know,” he said sarcastically. “Killing snakes, destroying Horcruxes. Sometimes they’re one and the same.”
“I told Potter I would handle that,” Snape said in an angry tone. “I told you all not to leave.”
“It’s Potter,” Draco said, throwing his hands up in the air. “Did you really expect him to listen? He got impatient and charged off at the first sign of an opportunity.”
Snape exhaled harshly through his nose. “Where is he now? You need to get out of here – I trust you have some sort of escape plan, at least?”
Draco shrugged, his gaze shifting off to the side. “I’ve no idea where he is.”
“You were just with him.”
“That was Weasley,” Draco muttered. “Polyjuiced.”
Snape looked as though he would very much like to smack Draco upside the head at that moment. “All three of you are here,” he said. It wasn’t a question, but Draco nodded anyway and Snape pinched the bridge of his nose. “And Miss Granger?” he asked, sounding like he thought he already knew the answer.
Draco was happy to prove him wrong this time. “No, Hermione stayed behind,” he said. “And she’s probably worked herself into a state wondering when we’ll be back.”
There was a pause while Snape gave Draco a blank, almost bordering on surprised look. Then he jerked his head around to look at the door. “We haven’t much time. Your aunt is here, and the werewolf, as well.”
“…He called them in?” Draco asked faintly, terror bubbling up in his stomach. The werewolf. Shit.
Snape nodded. “He’s angry,” he said slowly. “The Dark Lord. You’ve really done it this time.”
“It was worth it,” Draco said. He had to keep telling himself that. “Can I have my wand back?”
Snape handed it over. “I can try to buy you a little time. You need to find Potter and Weasley and get out.”
“We’re waiting on a house elf,” Draco said. “It’s dismantling the wards.”
“…Clever,” Snape admitted. “The Dark Lord would never worry about a house elf besting him. The thought wouldn’t even occur to him.”
“Potter’s idea. It’s worked for us before.”
Snape didn’t reply. Instead he pulled the door open and directed a cautious look up and down the hallway. “Go,” he said brusquely. “And be quick about it. Greyback is tracking your scent.”
Draco shuddered. “Fucking brilliant,” he grumbled, and headed back the direction Weasley had gone.
They layout of the house seemed to have changed again, however. What had once been a straight path that Draco had run down now had twists and turns, and in no time at all Draco had no idea where the hell he was or how he was supposed to get back to the stairwell they’d first come up. He ended up in a large, open foyer with floor to ceiling bay windows on one end that offered a wide view of the front lawn. Well, if nothing else, he could always dive through those, Draco thought cynically.
Shouts started echoing from down one of the hallways, quickly getting louder, and Draco looked around for somewhere he could duck into. If he had to take off running again, he wasn’t sure he’d make it far. He was starting to feel like he’d been hit with a Jelly-Legs Jinx.
He had just thrown himself into a corner, desperately hoping it was only the Carrows again because then he might actually have a chance of hiding in plain sight, when Fenrir Greyback strode into the room. Draco slapped a hand over his mouth in an effort to keep himself from groaning out loud, but he knew it wouldn’t matter much whether or not he made any noise.
Greyback sniffed at the air, looking every bit like a wolf on the prowl. His lips curled back, baring his teeth in a yellow grin. “Kid’s in here,” he said to someone behind him, and then Yaxley stepped into view.
“Wonderful,” he said, wand out in front of him. “Come now, Draco, you know this is a worthless effort. There isn’t much that can be done for you now, but if you grovel before the Dark Lord he could possibly be persuaded to let your parents live.”
Greyback snickered. “Doubtful,” he said. “The Malfoys have always been nothing but trouble.” He sniffed again, and then tipped his head in the direction of Draco’s corner. “He’s back there.”
Draco’s legs gave out and he slid to the floor, just as Yaxley flicked his wand in Draco’s direction. All at once, Draco could feel the Disillusionment Charm reversing, and when he looked down at his hands they’d been returned to their usual visible state.
“There,” Yaxley said. “Now why don’t you get up off your little blood traitor arse and come with me.”
Draco bristled. “I’m not a blood traitor,” he snapped, using the wall for support as he clambered to his feet.
Yaxley raised an eyebrow. “Could have fooled me,” he said, and then he pointed his wand at Draco again. “The Dark Lord never said we had to bring you to him alive.”
“Oh, please,” Draco said. “You know that bastard will want to torture me personally.” He chuckled darkly. “I suppose I should be honored.”
“You dare speak about the Dark Lord like that in front of me?” Yaxley spat.
Draco raised his wand. “His name is Voldemort,” he said, and then made a vicious slashing motion with his wand. “Stupefy!”
Yaxley blocked it wordlessly and immediately sent something flying back at him that Draco had to dive out of the way to avoid. “You really think you can hold your own against me?” Yaxley said, laughing. “You’re nothing but a child.” He fired off another spell and Draco hastily threw up a shield charm, which quickly ended up under double attacks as Greyback joined the fray, as well.
“Sectumsempra!” Draco cried, but his voice was shaky and keeping the shield charm up distracted him from aiming properly. The spell merely slashed across the side of Greyback’s face, leaving a bleeding gash high on his cheek. He lifted a hand to it, and his fingers were red when he pulled them back.
Slowly, and with a low growl, Greyback turned his head back to glare at Draco. “You’re dead, kid,” he snarled, and Draco could do nothing but stare helplessly, frozen to the spot, as he lunged forward.
Then suddenly two things happened in very quick succession as two different people charged into the room.
“EXPELLIARMUS!” Harry shouted, sliding directly in between Draco and Greyback. The spell caught Greyback full in the chest and he was thrown backwards as his wand went flying. Harry snatched it out of the air and fell into a crouch in front of Draco, quickly breaking the wand across his knee. He barely spared Draco a quick glance before his eyes settled on Yaxley, who very abruptly crumpled to the floor when a spell hit him from the other side.
“THAT IS MY SON!,” Lucius Malfoy roared, firing off another spell at Greyback that also sent him crashing down. He stood there panting for a moment, looking at his two fellow Death Eaters that he’d just taken out, and then he turned to Draco and Harry.
Harry hooked his hand around Draco’s arm and hauled him to his feet. “Alright, Malfoy?” he asked, still keeping a wary eye on Lucius, and Draco could only nod wordlessly, still utterly bewildered to see both Harry and his father there.
“Draco,” Lucius whispered, taking a step toward them. “Oh, Draco, what are you doing?”
Draco shifted nervously, glad that Harry still had a hold on his arm. His mind had gone blank and he suddenly couldn’t think of anything to say that would justify his actions.
After a moment, Lucius sighed and dragged a hand over his face, looking resigned. “You’d better get out of here,” he said in a low tone. “They won’t be out for long.”
“They’re not dead?” Harry said. “You can’t leave them alive, they’ll know–”
“Potter,” Lucius interrupted harshly, holding up a hand and sending him a dark look. “Don’t speak to me. I’m still debating whether or not I should drag you right back to the Dark Lord and if your irritating voice grates on my ears too much, you’re liable to tip the scales so that they’re not in your favor.”
Harry scowled. “They’re going to remember,” he insisted.
“He’s right,” Draco said, finally finding his voice. “Father, he’s right, you can’t just…”
Lucius gave a dismissive wave of his hand. “You underestimate me, Draco. I know how to perform a simple Memory Charm.”
Draco didn’t look reassured. “But father, the Dark Lord – Voldemort – there’s no way he’s going to let this one go, you’ll be killed. And it’ll be because of me, I can’t–”
“Draco.” Lucius cut in. “It’s hardly because of you. I’m the one who got my family into this,” he said bitterly. “You were nearly killed, I’ve no idea where your mother is–”
“Don’t tell me,” Lucius hissed. “It’s better if I don’t know.”
Harry, who was still lingering awkwardly by Draco’s side, tugged at his arm. “We really do need to go, mate.”
Draco glanced at him and then shot an uncertain look back at his father. “Come with us,” he said abruptly, ignoring the incredulous look that immediately appeared on Harry’s face. “You have to,” Draco insisted.
Lucius only shook his head. “Go,” he said. “Take Potter and get out of here.”
Draco looked at him one more time, and then he nodded his head once, grabbed Harry’s hand, and pulled him out of the room.
They hurried down the hall until Draco felt they were far enough away, and then he had to slow down for a minute to figure out what the hell had just happened.
“Uh…Malfoy?” Harry asked hesitantly, pulling at his hand. “Would you mind letting–” He was cut off when Draco unexpectedly spun around and grabbed the front of his shirt, burying his face against Harry’s neck.
“I just need a second,” Draco mumbled. “Because I’m pretty sure that was the last time I’ll ever see my father alive.” Harry didn’t say anything; he just remained tense against Draco’s hold and seemed to be breathing as shallowly as he could. Draco lifted his head to look at him, and after a couple seconds Harry’s eyes widened.
“Oh – shit, no, Malfoy–” Harry stammered. He held his hands up and tried to back up a step. “I’m not–”
Draco frowned in confusion and stepped forward with him. “Not what?”
Harry huffed and rolled his eyes skyward. “You’ve got the wrong Potter,” he said.
Draco blinked at him, wondering just what exactly that was supposed to mean, and then it clicked and his eyes went wide as he dropped Harry’s – Weasley’s – shirt like he’d been burned. “Oh, for the love of – you should have said something sooner, you idiot!” Draco exclaimed, his face quickly turning pink.
“I thought you knew!” Weasley cried, brushing off his shirt and looking at everything else in the hallway that wasn’t Draco. “I wasn’t expecting you to try to snog me!”
Draco’s jaw dropped. “I wasn’t going to snog you, Weasley, what the hell?!”
“You were! You had a funny look in your eyes and seriously, how didn’t you know it was me?!”
“Well!” Draco fidgeted for a second and then threw up his hands. “You seemed very – Potter-like, alright, I’m sorry! And you removed the Disillusionment Charm!”
“I was trying to distract a bunch of Death Eaters, I figured it’d be better if they could see me. Just – let’s pretend that didn’t happen,” Weasley said resolutely. “And go find the real Harry so you can hang all over him instead.”
“Oh, shut up,” Draco groused, and he and Weasley took off again.
* * *
Harry dashed around a corner and cursed for the umpteenth time that day when he saw that there was only another identical looking hallway in front of him. What the hell was going on with this place? It seemed to be an endless maze and the farther he went the more lost he got. There had been several times when he was tempted to call for Dobby, but the galleon in his pocket hadn’t yet heated up and he was hesitant to interrupt Dobby while he was working. He couldn’t afford to distract him when they needed a way out as soon as possible.
The fact that he couldn’t find Ron or Draco was also really starting to worry him. He’d tried to send them a message when running around aimlessly looking for them didn’t seem to be working, but he hadn’t gotten a reply back yet. Fair enough, assuming they were probably busy trying to fight off Death Eaters like he was.
At least, he hoped it was just that and not something worse. Nott’s words from earlier were still ringing in his ears and he had an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of his stomach.
Fuck, Harry just wanted to know what had happened.
On a whim, he threw open one of the many doors lining the hallway and was almost disappointed when there was nothing interesting on the other side. He’d half hoped there’d be a cluster of Death Eaters there so he had something to take his frustration out on. It sounded like there were some voices coming from further down the hall, however, so he decided to investigate that instead. It was possible it could be Ron and Draco–
Harry started as a sudden warmth bloomed against his leg, and he quickly remembered the galleon. He ducked into the room he’d just found and pulled it out, hoping that maybe Ron had finally gotten back to him, but instead there was one word spelled out along the edge of the coin.
R E A D Y
The voices were getting louder. Harry flattened himself against the wall, listening intently, but they didn’t turn out to be anyone he recognized.
“Malfoy’s as good as dead,” one of the voices was saying, sounding entirely too happy about it. “Cor, it’s good to watch that bloody family fall. Lucius always did get on my nerves the way he strutted around all the time.”
“Which one do you think the Dark Lord will do in first?” the second voice asked.
“Does it matter? Long as they both go. Whatever the kid’s been mixed up in lately has the Dark Lord all on edge, let me tell you. That spell he cast almost sent Dolohov through the wall at our last meeting. Dolohov! And he’s been here near since the beginning! No, both of ‘em need to be offed. Then maybe things can get back to normal around here.”
“Mm… We should be trying a little harder to find them, then, don’t you think?”
The first person made a scoffing sound. “The Dark Lord was going to sic Greyback on them, wasn’t he? Hell, he’s probably already found the kid and mangled him to pieces.” He gave a sharp laugh. “Might be they’ll decide to turn him into a werewolf.”
“Toss him into a dungeon until the full moon,” the second person said, also chuckling. “I’m for it. It’d have to be the Malfoys’ own dungeons, of course.”
“Definitely,” said the first person. “Anyway, I don’t much fancy going up against the Potter brat, to be honest. He gives me the creeps, that one. Can’t really figure out why the Dark Lord wants him so badly…”
The voices faded away, but Harry remained frozen to the spot for a moment longer.
Greyback was here.
Abruptly, he tore himself away from the wall and slipped back out into the hallway before setting off at a dead sprint. He had to find the others. Now. He was through wasting time. Dobby would be able to help now that the wards were ready to come down, he’d be able to locate the others easily–
A door flew open in front of him and before Harry could even think about slowing down he found himself crashing straight into – himself?
“Ow! Bloody hell, man, watch it!” his replica said, stumbling back into the door and immediately wincing. “Bugger – doorknob, ow.”
“Ron!” Harry exclaimed, quickly removing his Disillusionment Charm.
Ron looked up and gave him a pained smile as he rubbed at his side. “At least you recognized me,” he said, which didn’t make much sense to Harry, but he was too busy feeling relieved to care.
“Ha ha, Weasley, you slay me,” Draco said flatly, and when he stepped into view looking, for the most part, perfectly well and unharmed, Harry felt as though a huge weight had been lifted off his shoulders.
“Malfoy,” he breathed. Draco only had time to blink at him before Harry was lunging forward and throwing his arms around the other boy’s shoulders. “Shit,” he mumbled. “Shit. I wasn’t sure if – the Death Eaters have been saying – Merlin, I am so glad to see you.”
Draco blinked again, and then slowly brought his arms up to circle Harry’s waist. “Oh?” he said, his voice shaking a bit.
Harry pulled back slightly so he could look Draco in the eyes, absently brushing away some of the hair that had somehow managed to escape its gelled prison and fall into Draco’s face. “Are you okay?” he asked, pulling back half a step further to look him over completely. “Voldemort didn’t do anything to you, did he? No crazy werewolf gashes? You’re alright?”
Draco nodded dumbly at him, and Harry let out a long breath before hugging Draco tightly again.
Somewhere off to the side, Ron awkwardly cleared his throat. “I’m okay, too,” he said loudly. “You know, in case anyone was wondering.”
Harry jerked away from Draco, his face instantly flaming up. “Er…”
Ron ignored him and sent Draco a knowing look. “And you told me to shut up,” he said, grinning when Draco scowled at him. “Like I don’t know exactly what I’m talking about.”
Harry’s brow furrowed in confusion. “What…?”
Ron shook his head. “Nothing. No time for small talk anyway. We’ve been looking everywhere for you!”
“…You – I’ve been looking everywhere for you,” Harry said after a beat. “I sent you a message, didn’t you get it? Where were you guys?”
“Upstairs,” Draco replied, as Ron frowned and started digging around in his pockets.
Harry gaped at him. “There’s an upstairs?!”
“Doesn’t matter now, but yes.” Ron found the galleon and pulled it out, peering at it. “…Oh. Look, you did send something,” he said sheepishly, and Draco smacked him on the shoulder.
Harry rolled his eyes. “Whatever, you’re here now. Dobby’s ready to go, so we just have to–”
“THERE!” someone interrupted, and all three boys whirled around to find Bellatrix and Snape bearing down on them. Harry groaned. “Draco, you irritating little shit,” Bellatrix seethed. “You dare betray the Dark Lord? You have the gall to choose Potter over him?!”
“Well, obviously,” Draco said, doing his best to sound unimpressed. “In case you hadn’t noticed, the Dark Lord’s kind of a madman.”
Bellatrix gave a furious cry and readied her wand, but Snape swiftly stepped in front of her. “Allow me, Bella,” he said, and Harry knew that was the only chance he was going to get.
“DOBBY!” he shouted, backing up and pulling both Ron and Draco with him. “Dobby, now, we’re ready!”
Dobby popped into existence in front of them, took one look at Snape and Bellatrix, and snapped his fingers.
The air around them gave a weird sort of shimmer. Before Harry’s eyes the hallway and doors seemed to melt away, leaving them standing in what appeared to be some sort of old dining room.
“What did you do?” Bellatrix demanded, as the walls began shaking and chunks of wood rained down on them from the ceiling. “What did that filthy house elf do?!”
“The wards is down, Harry Potter!” Dobby cried. “They is being the only thing holding the house up!”
Harry nodded. “Time to go,” he said, and knelt down to clasp Dobby’s hand. The pressure in the air around them abruptly increased, and they Disapparated away just as the room they’d been standing in crumbled inwards.
* * *
They reappeared right outside Grimmauld Place, and for a few seconds they could only seem to stand there in shock.
“…I can’t believe we actually made it out,” Draco said after a moment. “Can we please never do that again?”
“What the hell happened at the end there?” Harry asked, moving toward the door. The last thing they needed was Voldemort popping up because they’d lingered outside too long. “Dobby, you said the wards were holding the house up?”
Dobby nodded. “Yes, Harry Potter. They is the reason Dobby was taking so long.”
“But what was with that…bloody maze or whatever? It just disappeared – that was because of the wards? I swear the layout of the damn place kept changing.”
“It did,” Ron said. “Malfoy and I figured it out. The curse must have been interwoven with the wards. We think You-Know – Voldemort – nicked the curse from an old Wizarding fairytale.”
Harry blinked. “Really? What, were we supposed to use bread crumbs to find our way out?”
Both Ron and Draco gave him a blank look.
“…Seriously?” Harry said. “Hansel and Gretel? No?”
“Ah,” Draco said, leaning in close to Ron. “Muggle thing.”
Harry huffed. “It had a witch in it,” he muttered. “Although…she was evil.”
“Aren’t most witches in all that Muggle stuff?” Draco asked.
“Glinda wasn’t,” Harry said, but the other two just continued to look at him like they thought he’d gone mental. “Oh, come on! That one even had wizard in the title and you haven’t heard of it?”
“We need to get this bloke a copy of The Tales of Beetle the Bard,” Ron said to Draco, who nodded. Harry just huffed again and pulled open the door.
They made it about five feet past the entrance before several sets of footsteps came pounding down the stairs. Harry looked up with a grin on his face, ready to greet Hermione, but instead it was a redheaded blur that flew into his arms.
“Harry!” Ginny cried, and Harry could only stand there in bewilderment while she squeezed the breath out of him.
“…Note that she can also tell which one of us is the right one,” Ron said lightly.
Draco crossed his arms and scowled.
Okay, BEFORE YOU ALL START THROWING THINGS AT ME -- don't worry. Don't worry, Harry is very much done with Ginny and she isn't there to cause problems. We're coming up on Christmas and whatnot time-wise, though, and I couldn't leave her at Hogwarts over the break!
Anyway, haha. I'm really curious what you all thought of this chapter! It was kind of a monster, wasn't it? It was fun to write, so I hope everyone enjoyed it!
The next chapter might be a little late, only because I'm going to be in Orlando~ for the Harry Potter Celebration there -- EXCITED!! It just happens to be the same weekend I'm due to post next, though. I'll get the chapter up as soon as I can after I get back, promise!
Till then! :D
You can also read it at Skyehawke.