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    Betrayal




    Chapter Four






    Everything was going to plan, everything, so far, had gone swimmingly; now, if only he could shake the Weasel boy off.

    Draco's mind raced as he wandered down yet another twisted, black passage: his blank, grey eyes were dilated, his pulse was racing, and his lapdog followed on close behind him. Now, all he needed was to rid himself of that bloody Weasley! He had to find Snape; it was imperative, he just had to get to him first.

    But, the fucking Weasley wouldn't be shaken, he stuck to him like glue. Then there was the infernal questioning to contend with too. Didn't the bloody idiot know when it was best to, just shut-the-fuck-up? Were the Weasley family really that thick-headed? His lip curled up into a vicious snarl, a snarl that went unseen in the dark. He would have to loose him, to come up with a plan, it was essential that he met with Snape first and was alone.

    "So, you like our Ginny then, eh?"

    Shut it, Weasel! Fuck, would he ever shut up, as if it was any of his business anyway. Giving him no answer, a Weasley deserved nothing from him but scorn, he hurried along to the end of the passage. He must loose him soon!

    "Bloody hell, slow down, Malfoy - what are you in such a rush for anyway, he might not even be here?"

    His face contorted; honestly, this was unsupportable: would he never be rid of the ginger moron? Stopping suddenly, he gritted his teeth, and turned round to face him. The ginger oaf barrelled into him.

    "Sheesh." He sucked the air through his teeth. His anger grew. Really this was the absolute limit! He fixed the Weasel with his most baleful glare and spoke to him for the first time, in his most scornful tone. "Would you kindly refrain from asking me your idiotic questions," he snarled, taking a step back and disdainfully brushing down his robe. "And, could you possibly, refrain yourself from knocking me over as well...."

    Fred snorted, contemptuously. "Shove off, Malfoy! Spare me, the niceties, please. Just, bloody, answer me when I talk to you, you prat!"

    "Why should I?" Draco shot one last contemptuous look, turned, and walked off into the looming darkness again. The oaf wasn't worth wasting his breath on.

    Fred picked up his pace to catch up with him. "Because you're on very dodgy ground here, Malfoy." Chasing after him, he sounded rather breathless. "And, if you want to gain some footing, Prat - I'd recommend being more cooperative...."

    As if he wanted to cooperate with them, as if he had a choice.

    A disdainful cock of the eyebrow was enough of an answer to that dubious synopsis. He suspected, quite correctly, that they'd rather put their trust a raving lunatic before they put their trust in him - their unyielding trust in Mad-Eye-Moody being a prime example. In fact, he very much doubted, if they would ever come to trust him at all. This was not a problem for him, though. Instead, it showed that, contrary to appearances, they actually might share a few brain cells between them. After all, he wouldn't trust himself, not if he was in their situation, not an ounce.

    He heaved an irritated sigh out. Extremely aware of the ginger twit's eyes on him, he wanted the optimum effect. It worked, the Weasley narrowed his eyes at him, obviously feeling exasperated beyond belief.

    "All right, then - don't bloody talk - it's your funeral."

    Yes, exactly - it is my funeral, he thought, darkly. If I don't find Severus soon, I'm as good as dead.

    Watching the Weasley from the corner of his eye, he saw him shoving his hands deep in his robe pockets, temporally defeated. Good, no more inane questions. This would give him some time to plan, give him more time to think. Eyes clouding over, his mind drifted back to earlier that morning.

    ---

    After a breakfast of sausages and watchful eyes, Ginny had pulled him to the side. Ginny, with her soft brown eyes and freckles, had whisperer quiet assurances in his ear, while sharp eyes had narrowed and watched on. She had wanted him to know that she loved him, she had told him to take care; her bright eyes had shined wetly, glistening with the first threat of tears.

    A knot of guilt had twisted in his stomach - he did not deserve such blind devotion.

    Yes, he loved her in his own special way, he supposed. It was her who had provided him with that small glimmer of hope; a bleak wish, which had always shone, just beyond his reach. Yet, though, thoughts of her kisses, and other such sweet things, burnt brightly, keeping away the darkness of the long nightmares of the night. Reality returned, however, in the cold light of day, and with it came cold truths that whispered terrible words of betrayal.

    Perseverance came first. There was no place for mislaid loyalty in this heart of darkness. His stretched and overwrought soul could not afford to put trust in something as fickle as hope or love. He had to survive, he had to put an end to this madness, he had to put himself first. And, if that meant betraying the one who believed in him, then so be it.

    It had begun with heated words and accusations, it had begun with shared, hot and needy, kisses in the night. Secret liaisons, sweat soaked skin, fear and lust mingled in heady confusion, which brought sweet relief from the darkness that lurked around every foreseeable corner.

    He had not loved her, no, it had never been love. But, she has warmed him, put her misplaced trust in him, and helped him chase away his fears. She had filled his need and he, hers. They had found a way together, to blot out the impeding darkness; they had found themselves a niche in which they could hide. This did not help the bitter taste of acid, though. Or the bile, which threatened to rise in his throat as he kissed her for the last time.

    He had no time for these untimely feelings of culpability, he had to push them down. These feelings, in fact, any emotion (with the exception of hate) could very well result in his untimely demise. Neither side cared. Cared for him, or anything, but ultimately winning this war. He was a traitor to both sides, a dead man walking, a scapegoat to either cause.

    There was no place in him for false faith; he had to move onwards, he had to find Snape, his only hope lay with him and the book. So, he stole that last kiss from Ginny, he took it greedily, knowing full well it would be his last. He took it, then smiled her one last smile, before walking away quickly, running away from his regrets.

    Regrets could come later. Regrets could come when he was dead. He held his head high, straightened his shoulders and walked over towards his grim faced entourage, his mask slipping back into place.

    *


    The Black Spot was the same, it had not changed since he last laid eyes on it. The ice sharp wind still blew fiercely, making one shiver with its unnatural touch. The carrion birds still cried their piercing cries, cries that sounded like screams from the soulless dead. Strange shadows danced behind the surrounding blackened trees: Inferni, toothless hungry hags, twisted Goblins; creatures such as these, choose to haunt this wretched site now. And, if it hadn't been for the horrible (and strangely pitiable) creatures fear and hatred of the wands they held aloft, Draco knew that he and his company would have been attacked, tortured and killed long before now.

    Instead, though, afraid of the wands the Wizards held, these twisted creatures hung back and watched from the shadows, muttering heated curses as the company passed.

    They had passed hurriedly, no one wanting to linger in this place, they had made their way quickly to the looming, blackened ruins. Hiding behind those blackened walls was Snape: in there, there were many answers to be found. Truth be told, not one of them wanted to enter that ominous blackness, especially Draco, who once remembered it as his home. But, nothing of the former Malfoy Manor was recognisable to him now, apart from that old air of cold authority, which still lingered on.

    No, no one had really wanted to enter, but all followed Harry's instructions as he dived them into pairs. Harry would go in with Neville, Fred would take Malfoy, and Alistor and George would search the outer grounds. All was decided in a matter of minutes and Draco had found himself entering his former home for the first time since his mother died.

    As he approached the looming dark gap, which used to serve as the main entrance, fingers of ice cold terror, slithered down his back. He shuddered. Then he entered....

    ---

    A terrified scream pulled him back from his memories to the present. Wide eyed and on edge, his eyes darted to Fred's and (in silent agreement) they took off down the passageway. At the end, they turned left, following the echoes of the reverberating scream. A couple of twisting passages later, the final echoes slowly dying away, they came upon a room. A cobwebbed room filled with books; Draco recognised it as his father's old study. He stepped forward.

    The room was filthy; years of dust covered everything, cobwebs hung from every conceivable corner, a smell of must and decay assaulted his delicate nose. Mould grew on the heavy velvet curtains, which still hung at the pane less window frame, shattered glass scattered the floor. But, all in all, Draco thought to himself. Despite the black soot, which covered everything, his father's old study still stood strangely intact. Had someone tried to restore it, could someone be hiding here?

    Someone stepped out of the shadows, walking towards him, mouthing words he couldn't hear.

    Snape!

    Dear Merlin! He had found him.... He rushed forward to his former mentor, caution forgotten, jumbled words spilling from his lips.

    "The book, Severus - have you the book? I need it, it will help us...."

    Snape's mouth opened again, his eyes looked frantic, but Draco could not hear a word, nor did he catch the warning in his eyes. Vaguely aware of Fred behind him, keeping a steady wand on his former Potions teacher, Draco took another step towards his former professor and clutched desperately at his cloak.

    "Please, Severus," he rambled, desperate for the knowledge. "The book - where is it? I can bargain with it - it can save us - it's my, I mean our last chance...."

    "Draco," His voice sounded rusty, unused. "Draco, please...."

    Draco ignored the plea in his eyes. "For Merlin's sake, Severus - is it in here? Have you hidden it? Is it...."

    Fred, irritated and confused, decided to enter the conversation. "What are you bloody talking about? What book? Stop talking riddles, would it be useful to the order...."

    "Potter..." Snape croaked out from cracked lips.

    "Potter? What has he got to do with it? He hasn't got the book...." A look of terror came to Draco's eyes. "Has he?"

    "Traitor..." Snape clutched at Draco's robes and brought his bloodless face closer to his. "Traitor, Draco, Traitor!"

    "Who's a bloody traitor - what's going on here?" Fred now sounded afraid, he didn't like, or understand, where things were leading to here. He wanted Harry, he wanted the others: he quickly came to a decision. Training his wand on the two of them, he continued. "You two idiot's are coming with me - we're going to find the others and you can spout this nonsense out to them..."

    "Severus, what's the matter ... what's wrong?"

    The man had started to shiver and convulse.

    "Severus!"

    Snape's fingers clutched harder at Draco's arm, his fingers digging in painfully. The former professor's lips pulled away from his teeth in an agonised snarl, as he collapsed to the floor in a writhing heap, nearly taking Draco down with him.

    Draco pulled himself back and looked on with increasing alarm. "Severus," was all the confused young man could say.

    Fred, too, watched on, horrified. Just what the hell was going on here? he asked himself, unable to do anything but stare. Who, or what, was doing this to him?

    Neither boy moved, both stood, overwhelmed, by the bizarre change of events. It was Fred, who snapped out of it first. The man was obliviously in great pain. Traitor or not, he would have to try and help him. He stepped closer to the convulsing man.

    "NO! Step away from him, Fred. It's too late now..."

    "Harry?" Fred spun round, surprised by Harry's cold tone. "Harry, what are you on about?" he questioned, uncertainly.

    "I'm simply stating a fact, Mate - It's too late for him now." A strange little smile played on Harry's lips.

    Disturbed by the smile, Draco took a furtive step backwards, bringing himself closer to the safer shadows by his father's towering bookshelves. He did not trust that smile, he didn't like the way events were unfolding, an ominous feeling of foreboding had descended heavily on his shoulders. Inching, himself, slowly backwards, he trod on something soft. Glancing down, to see what it was, his eyes widened in fear. It was a hand.

    He stuffed his knuckles in his mouth to prevent himself from screaming.

    Unaware of Draco's find, Fred went on, choosing to hide his growing confusion with prattle. "So, where's Neville then, Harry - eh?"

    "He got lost on the way, mate," Harry smirked nastily, leaving Fred very unsure of now to continue. Harry was acting very strange.

    "So, we better find the others and find him them," Fred continued, trying to bring some sense into the proceedings. Then he motioned to the man still writhing on the floor. "Alistor could probably do something to help him too..."

    Harry gave an odd laugh. "Oh, yeah, Moody will help him alright."

    "What do you mean, Harry? You're acting strange - let's go find Nev and the others...."

    Draco couldn't help himself, an insane, muffled giggle escaped his lips.

    Fred was incensed, Harry's eyes looked thoughtful.

    "Just, shut it, ferret boy," Fred hissed angrily, "it's not bloody funny...."

    "But, I think that I've just found Neville..."

    Face drained of all blood, Draco stared down at the brown-haired dead boy behind his father's bookshelf. It was obviously the Adava Kedavra curse; the boy's glassy eyes held a look of sheer astonishment and there was no sign of any mark on the body, which was still radiating heat. Draco shuddered. Another shred of sanity slipped away from him.

    Following Draco's vacant stare, Fred's eyes fell on the out flung hand. His eyes widened. "Is - is - is that who I think it is?"

    No answer came. Fred turned to Harry. "Harry?"

    Harry's eyes were cold.

    "It's not Nev, is it, Harry? Please, tell me it's not Neville..." Fred was pleading with him, only Harry could help him make sense of things.

    Harry smiled kindly and raised his wand. "I'm sorry, Fred -- Avada Kedavra!"

    A flash of green light! Hitting him squarely in the chest, Fred died still none the wiser.

    Watching on, horrified, Draco still stood and giggled.

    From afar, the sound of hurried footsteps approaching could be heard. Harry's eyes were hard as he turned to face Malfoy, wand raised.

    ---

    "What the bloody hell is going on h - h - here..."

    George's frantic voice came to a halt, he had seen his brother. "What's wrong with Fred? - He isn't hurt is he?"

    He dropped to his knees, beside his twin. He reached out his hand to touch him.

    "Maybe, you should be asking Malfoy that question," Harry insinuation, as he stepped forward and placed a cool hand on George's shoulder. "I'm so sorry, George - I couldn't get here on time..."

    The insane giggles from the corner suddenly stopped. "It wasn't me - that's a lie!"

    Draco tried to pull himself together. He had to regain his control. He was truly cornered.

    "Did you do this boy?" A harsh voice rasped. Moody had entered the room. "Did you hurt this boy...."

    "He's dead, Harry," George's voice was a sob. "He's dead - someone killed him!"

    "It wasn't me - I don't even have a wand!"

    "Don't give us that boy." Moody stepped around the desk in the middle of the room, pounced down on something, and walked deliberately over, towards the trembling boy in the corner. "Who's wand is this then, boy?"

    Draco eyed the wand suspiciously. It wasn't his, he was sure. Snape's, it must be Snape's. "It's not mine - it must be Snape's..."

    "Oh, blaming your old friends now, are yer?"

    "No, not Snape - Harry!"

    "You're making no sense, boy!"

    He had never been in such a tight corner in his life. He must think, he must gain coherency. "Harry did it!"

    A short, derisive laugh. "Don't be ridiculous, boy."

    "Check his wand, you'll see..." Draco was near hysteria. "He killed Neville too!"

    "Of all the absurdness...."

    "I'm more than willing for you to check my wand, Alistor."

    "That wont be necessary, Harry..."

    "It was Harry - he must want the book too!"

    "What?"

    "The book - that's why he tortured Seve- " Draco suddenly remembered Snape's last coherent words and his eyes widened in horror and realisation. "It's him - Harry's the traitor!"

    A thick silence followed his accusation. No one said a word, all eyes were on him. He couldn't help it, he cowered further into the shadows.

    They were all out to get him, all of them! He could see that now. It had been a trap for him from the beginning. They hated him because he was superior, they despised him his wealth! Everyone had always been against him, it was the way it had always been. No one had ever recognised his talents; they had always overlooked him or pushed him back, he had never been allowed to shine.

    Bloody Potter always beating him. Moody turning him into a ferret. Voldemort used him, his father always underestimated him; mother always codling him, always being called a coward. No one had been there for him, he had always been alone. Alone and afraid.

    Death was coming for him, he knew this, he could feel it crawling under his skin. It waited for him patiently, it waited and it lurked. It had always been waiting for him, ever since it knew his name was Malfoy. This was ordained, this was prophecy, this was all his fault. If only if he had known this earlier, back in the days when the sun used to shine, then maybe he could have changed things or chosen another path.

    All that was left to him now, though, were the powerless memories of former happier times. He had tucked them into his happy place and tried to keep them safe. But, even these, protected and hidden, had fallen prey to endless nightmares and passing time.

    Nothing made sense anymore, lost and frightened, he tried hard to hold on to the last remnants of sanity that he still held. He tried, he tried his bloody hardest, he tried and he failed: the old Draco was in there somewhere, but somewhere much to faraway for him to reach. A single sob escaped him. He knew that he had lost.

    "The bloody brat is snivelling now, just look at him - the worthless scum! Knows he's for it now..."

    "Alistor!" Harry cut him off sharply. "Be fair, his allegations could be true..."

    "Don't be bloody stupid, Harry! He's calling you a traitor-"

    "But, even he, deserves a free trail...."

    "NO, HARRY!" Moody raised his voice to full volume. "It would be a waste of effort, no one would even believe the Malfoy Brat! Nothing could be achieved by going that route...."

    "But, Alistor..."

    "No, Harry! - Gryffindor fairness is all well enough, but that would be a waste of our time and resources...."

    "But, it's only fair--"

    "Ask that poor boy, cradling his brother over there. Ask him what he thinks is fair. There are two bodies here, Harry - and that Death Eater filth is responsible!"

    Smirking inwardly, after all, things were going exactly to plan, Harry carried on with his pretence. "I suppose your right Alistor, it's just..."

    "You know that I'm right, Harry-"

    "If I agree, will you leave me to deal with him then. I would rather..."

    "No! Not him!" Draco came out of his self imposed stupor. "He'll kill me, I tell you it was HIM!"

    "Shut it, you!" Draco's outburst had helped him made his mind up. "All though, I wouldn't mind dealing with this piece of scum, myself - but, I'll grant you that much, Harry."

    This time he didn't draw attention to himself. After seeing the sly smirk that had snuck on to Potter's face. Insane or not, Draco knew he'd rather face ten hours of torture with Moody than face one minute alone with Potter. He sprang right into action, he knew exactly what he had to do next. He glanced over at the bookshelf stood to his right and stepped cautiously over to it. Hoping against hope, that this would work, he then pushed against it with all his might. The bookshelf swayed perilously, tottered, toppled and fell, landing on the floor with an almighty crash. Then, without a moments pause, Draco ran as fast as he could for the door.

    The bookshelf fell, narrowly missing Moody, shocking all the occupants of the room. A dust cloud rose and rained down on the room, threatening to choke the life from all of them. Harry stayed calm, though. He couldn't afford to be thwarted this close to completing his plans. The disorientating smog of the falling dust smudged his glasses and blurred his vision. Undeterred by this, though, he narrowed his eyes and searched the room thoroughly. Soon enough, he saw exactly what he was expecting to see: a blurred figure ran from the room and he didn't need three guesses to know who it was. He was after Draco immediately.

    Ignoring Alistor's shouts, he was soon lost in the maze of dark and twisting passageways. He didn't mind, though. Yes, he knew that this was Malfoy's old home and, yes, he knew that the backstabbing ferret stood a more than a good chance of escaping him. He was not worried yet, though, for he had something up his sleeve: he had Seekers Luck and it had never failed him yet. Yes, he would soon find Malfoy, he was very certain of this. He would find him, corner him, catch him like a rat in a trap, and then the bastard would get what was coming for him. Encouraged by this thought, Harry smirked an unpleasant smirk and pounded down the passages with renewed vigour.

    ---

    The Manor had changed so much that he hardly recognised it anymore. The entire upper floors of his childhood home had completely collapsed and disintegrated, entire rooms had just fallen and crumbled into dust. Rubble was strewn everywhere on the lower floor: blocking off rooms and cutting off entire passages, leaving everything unrecognisable except for the odd miracle that remained standing.

    Racing down yet another passage, Draco knew he couldn't run much further; his ribs ached, it hurt him to breath, and he had run out of places to hide. Tired of running, tired of always running, he waited for something inside him to give.

    Why don't you just lie down, curl yourself into a ball, and pretend it's not happening.?

    Nearly doubled over in pain, the stitch in his side hurting him unbearably, he stopped to listen to the voice. It sounded so inviting, it was just what he wanted to do. But, he couldn't do that, could he? This was his life that it walking about. The voice spoke again:

    And do you have anything worth living for?

    An image of Ginny popped unbidden into his head, but he hadn't the strength to sustain it. Leaning his head against the cold stone wall, he prayed for the voice to go away.

    See, you have nothing....

    Not true, I have....

    You have nothing....

    A low and desperate moan escaped him. It was true, he had nothing. Slowly, he slid down the wall, to the floor, and waited for Harry to find him.

    Coming up to the next corner, Harry was panting heavily. The mounds of rubble laying everywhere had made the chase hard going, but Harry didn't care. He was close now, he could feel it. If he closed his eyes tight, he could almost see Draco right there in front of him. He rounded the next corner.

    There he was, slumped against the wall; it was Malfoy, just sitting there, sitting there waiting, his head bowed as he cradled it in his hands. Harry skidded to a halt. Malfoy didn't move, he didn't even look up. Oh, so that's the way you want to play, is it, Malfoy? Harry ginned a feral grin and took a measured step forward.

    "Tired of running are we, Malfoy?" Harry took another step closer. "Do you finally understand that it's always me that wins."

    No answer, he kept his head lowered in his hands.

    "Nothing to say then, Malfoy? Have you finally learnt when to shut-the-fuck-up?" He was nearly on top of him now, drawing close. Harry withdrew his wand, just in case. After all, he was a Slytherin - he could have a trick up his sleeve. Harry deliberately crouched down in front of him, holding his wand to his head. Malfoy didn't even a flinch.

    What was wrong with him, had he given up? Well, that certainly made sense - he was always a coward. "Nothing to say then, Malfoy? No last wishes...."

    He finally spoke up, not taking his head from his hands. His lips formed a simple question. "Why, Potter?"

    Harry was taken aback. "Why not?"

    Draco finally looked up, hard as flint, cold grey eyes looked into his. "That's not an answer, Potter - it's another bloody question."

    Ah, finally, they were back on common ground. This would make things so much more fun. "Whatever, Malfoy, " Harry shrugged his shoulders, insolently.

    Draco closed his eyes and swallowed, trying to get some saliva back into his mouth, his Adam's apple bobbled. Merlin! He was tired, he had to ask again. "Just tell me why, Potter."

    "Why do you ask?" Harry watched him closely.

    Another painful swallow. "Because I want to know when you sold your soul to the Dark Lord."

    Harry chuckled, mirthlessly. "Who says I have, Malfoy?"

    Draco's eyes flew open. "You killed Neville - and that Weasley boy-"

    "That still doesn't mean that I'm working for him-"

    "You're after the book - you're going to kill me...."

    "As you said, Malfoy - the book is a good bargaining tool. If you had reached it first, you would have killed me." Another cruel smile crossed his face. "That is, if you could have."

    "I wouldn't have killed you - I'd have just run away-" Draco screwed his fingers into his eyes as if he were tired.

    "You would have ran to him - you're the traitor!"

    "I wouldn't even have mentioned you! Why do you always think it's about you, Potter?"

    Harry lunged at the silver-haired boy's robes. "Yes, you would have, Malfoy! When he had gotten the book off of you and betrayed you - then you would have betrayed me."

    "No!" But, the protest even sounded pathetic to his own ears - he knew that Harry had spoken the truth. Staring sightlessly down at Harry's hand, which still clutched tightly at his crumpled robe, he felt another little piece of himself slip away. He closed his pale eyes and asked his last question. "Just do it, Harry."

    Harry was taken aback again. He drew a little away from him. Was that it, then? Wasn't he going to beg and plead for his life - wasn't he going to fight him? Harry let his surprise sneak into his words. "No begging then, Malfoy?"

    Malfoy just shook his head, his eyes were still squeezed tightly shut.

    Harry freed his hand from the blond boy's robe. "Not even going to try and fight me?"

    Wrapping his arms around his knees, Draco shook his head no. "No, Potter," he whispered out, harshly. "There would be no point in that really, would there? It's like you said before, Harry - you would only win - and I haven't the energy anyway...."

    Letting Malfoy's last words sink slowly into him, Harry studied his one time schoolboy nemesis closely. He wasn't quite sure if the silver-blond prat was either being very brave or being extremely bloody stupid. It confused him. It just wasn't what he had expected at all. He got to his feet. "You chose the wrong side, Malfoy."

    "Did I ever really have a choice?" His colourless grey eyes had opened again. He watched Harry dispassionately.

    Should I kill him or not? He felt, suddenly, uncertain and the wand in his hand wavered. Then a long forgotten memory floated into his mind: a memory of soft hair, of sparkling eyes, of summer sunshine and laughter. His past came back to haunt him and his mind was finally made up. Then the words just came to him so easily. He straightened his wand and pointed, "Avada Kedavra!" The jet of green light soon followed.

    ---

    Moody found him ten minutes later. "Harry, Thank Merlin!" He sounded breathless and agitated. "Have you found the little bastard, yet? We really need to...."

    Harry cut him off, flatly. "He's dead, Alistor."

    Dead? Harry's words stopped him in his tracks. "Are you sure, Harry?"

    "Yes!"

    Moody noticed the blank look in his eyes. His Auror training kicked in, he became suspicious. "How did he die, Harry? Was it in self-defence? - Well, no one would blame you, Lad..."

    "It was an accident...."

    Mad-Eye raised a cynical eyebrow. "An accident - are you quite sure, Harry?" His good eye watched the boy carefully.

    "Yes!" Harry remembered raising up a heavy stone and bringing down on the dead boy's head. He had to do it, he needed his backup story. "He was running from me - he fell and hit his head."

    "Oh!"

    He just couldn't get the picture out of his brain. The dark red blood congealing in pale-blond hair, the thin red line it made while it slowly trickled down into the curve of his pallid jaw; those colourless lips that seemed to mock him with one last final smirk. He shuddered, he had to snap himself out of it.

    "Harry, are you alright?"

    He came back to attention. "Yes," he snapped, shaking his head roughly . "I'm alright, but we need to get the others in. I need to get George home to his mother and Snape needs taking in for questioning before he dies...."

    Moody nodded, accepting this plan. "But, what about the Malfoy boy? We'll need to know where his body is...."

    Harry jerked his thumb over his shoulder. "It lies two minutes down that way, but you don't need to see to that, Alistor. Get Lupin to come back here, Lupin and Kingsley. They can take care of the dead. You take Snape, keep him alive for as long as you can, get information from him about the book...."

    "The book, which book? I'll try Harry, but I don't think he'll last...."

    "He'll last a few days, Alistor. It looks like he's under a mutation of the Cruciatus Curse. And, if all else fails, we can always resort to taking his memories from him. Don't worry about the book - you'll know exactly which book I mean as soon as you find it. It's a Dark Arts book, it will help us greatly-"

    "Will you be explaining...."

    "Yes, I'll take George back and explain to Molly, to the family. You just go and take Snape to Headquarters, Alistor. After things have calmed down, I'll come straight to you."

    Moody looked as if he wanted to say more.

    "Just go, would you! I'll follow on."

    Moody watched him closely, summing the situation up swiftly. Though, he had many questions left, he decided that they could be left for later. Then, apparently satisfied for the moment, he nodded sharply to Harry and took off straight away. Harry let out a sharp and irritated hiss of breath, at last the old Auror had gone.

    Alone at last, Harry ambled slowly along, taking this time to gather his thoughts. Everybody would be upset of course, the house would be in uproar. Molly would cry, Charlie would try his best to comfort her, while dealing with his grief and Arthur would come straight back home. Then, of course, there would be Ginny to contend with.

    Ah, his Ginny!

    Of course, she wouldn't believe him at first, not Ginny. No, at first, she would probably shout, scream and cry a lot, refusing to believe any of it. After time, though, when the memories of him had faded, then he would step back in; then she would allow him to comfort her. Memories of that magical summer came flooding back to him again: remembrances of soft smiles, freckled skin and soft shared kisses.

    Harry smiled, Harry remembered; Harry walked on into the darkness ahead.




    AN: This is the last chapter. It was intended to be a much longer series, but due to lack of interest (on my part) I've decided to end it here. It is properly completed, though, with a beginning and a proper ending. I just see this story now more as several long mood pieces that all fit together at the end.

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