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Ron’s eyes widened. “ Why didn’t you- “

Lupin shook his head. He knew Ron too well, knew himself too well. “ It was not the right time. “

“ And you think this is the right time? “ Ron asked. “ She told you that, and yet you never told us. We kept tabs on him- cut them off from him…but he’s been in it all along! “

“ Narcissa was compelled to lie to save her son, “ Lupin replied simply. “ I would do that too. “ He remembered little Sirius, and how he was willing to risk everything for his child, risk even death.

“ You will not tell anyone else? “

“ No, “ Lupin shook his head tiredly. “ I have broken my promise to her by telling you. But only to you; Ron. You know what this would be like for the others. Many still want the Malfoy family destroyed. I promised Narcissa to keep her son safe. I will do it. Draco’s not the Draco we all thought of before. He has changed one way or another. “

“ Draco’s joined them! He’s one of them, whether he likes it or not! “

“ I don’t think he likes it at all, “ Lupin told Ron.

“ How would you know? “ Ron said hotly. “ This is Draco Malfoy we’re talking about! No matter how many people say he’s changed, he’s still a Malfoy, still a pureblood fanatic, he’s still going to end up like his father and serve he-who-must-not-be-named! “

“ Hermione didn’t see him that way. “

Ron froze for a second. “ Hermione’s…she’s been blinded by her love for him. But I don’t think she’ll be stupid enough to fall for another- “ he paused, remembering what Hermione told him. He had to keep his secret, that Hermione had held the box that contained Voldemort’s wand…

“ Hermione fell in love with Draco. You still don’t like the idea, “ Lupin replied. “ But that’s not the topic here. The whole point here is to stop Draco, to keep him safe. I must uphold my promise. “

“ They weren’t so keen of you in your younger days, “ Ron muttered. “ The whole pureblooded lot of them! “

Lupin nodded. “ I know. That’s the way things are. But I cannot help but feel that I must save Draco one way or another. “

“ Well, I don’t mind seeing him dead, “ Ron snapped. “ He’s been causing too much pain on us, we’ve had Aurors dead because of him and his lot, Hermione’s been hurt too much because of him, and he has Harry’s bloody heart! He doesn’t deserve to live-“

“ He’s caught between two sides, “ Lupin said. “ Did you not think of that? “

Ron sighed. “ I have, Sir. But he has to make a choice- “

“ That was his choice. This is his choice, “ Lupin said, pacing slowly around the room. “ He’s been torn between loyalty and tradition, love and power, heritage and peace. He has his inner demons too, you know. You should know. You’ve spoken to him more than I have in my entire life. “

Ron nodded slightly. It was true. But those times, Draco had been stubborn, sly and sarcastic! Oh how he would give anything at that moment to see Draco dead, to stop Hermione’s pain and his and everyone else’s!

“ We’ve sent out the others yesterday to Borgin and Burkes. The owner is now in custody. Your information was correct. He sold something to one of the Deatheaters and he refuses to tell us what it was, for fear that they might go after him and kill him. “

Ron looked at Lupin with seriousness in his eyes. “ Sir…I feel- strangely lost, “ he finally said quietly.

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Voldemort’s wand….

Draco could almost feel his presence in the room, his cold hands over his shoulders; he could almost feel his rattling, snake-like breathing on his nape. He felt Lord Voldemort alive…alive in that wand, alive in him…wanting him….waiting for him…

Blaise smiled, unable to control his excitement. This was it. The night for attack. The night for retribution...this was the moment he had dreamed of for so long…his rewards would be far greater than he’d imagine it would be…

Goyle and Crabbe felt a surge of hope…Lord Voldemort would reward them greatly for their efforts…he would forget about their betrayal…

Daphne stared hard at the wand she had painstakingly fixed…her family’s name would rise once more in the pure blood society…her father’s soul would give her some mental rest now…they would see her strength…the best that she was…

Theodore Nott’s heart pounded for some reason…was he afraid? Anxious? Excited? They were flirting with either ultimate power or rewards or flirting with death. There was no way out, was there? It was either work with them, or be alone and face their wrath…

Adrian Pucey and Warrington smiled to each other. A true Slytherin’s dream. To see the rise of Lord Voldemort again, after such a disastrous fall in the hands of Harry Potter…

Marko Sarovic was staring at Draco. He could see Draco’s uncomfortably. He liked it. There was almost a hundred percent possibility that Draco would die in the ritual they were about to perform. With Draco gone, Pansy’s concentration would shift to him and him alone…

The privileged nine…

“ Any news? “ Draco asked, breaking everyone’s trance on the wand.

Blaise nodded. “ So far…the Aurors have caught our scent. But they’re still far from us. Misleading them again to the Riddle Manor proved useful. The Greengrass Manor has been searched and mine was too. I believe they’ll be on their way here. Your mother was kind enough to have leaked a bit of news…even the old cave where Dumbledore was foolish enough to drink from the grail was searched. Those stupid Aurors. Always two steps behind…“

Draco’s brow raised. “ My mother’s asleep. When she wakes up, it will be a whole new world. “

“ Right…come now, Draco. I thought your mother was still loyal to our cause, “ Blaise said.

“ Times have changed, “ Draco quickly said.

Daphne looked at Draco and looked away quickly. She opened her mouth. “ They’ve kept tabs on me, on us, now. They are getting highly alert. I’m afraid they might interrupt our highly delicate ceremony. “

Warrington scoffed. “ No they will not. “

Adrian looked at the wand thoughtfully. “ But still- we should not take the risk…”

“ Adrian’s right, “ Marko Sarovic said. “ Do we perform here? Or in Bulgaria? “

“ No, “ Draco said through gritted teeth. “ The ritual must be done here, in English soil. We still need a back-up plan though. Bulgaria will be our last alternative. “

“ Bulgaria is the safest, “ Marko protested.

“ We act like the Master, “ Draco said in a low tone. “ Take the risk, make the risk. Face danger and fight it off. Walpurgis turned out that way. “

Some of them nodded, remembering the story of how the Knights of Walpurgis came to light, before becoming official DeathEaters, before doing the bidding of Lord Voldemort despite destroying their own lives and their families’.

“ You know what? “ Warrington began. “ You remind me of your father…”

Draco paused. The muscles of his jaw hardened. “ Really now, “ he said in a soft voice. It was difficult to keep face, when everyone saw him as Lucius number two, now. “ I’m better than him. “

It seemed that everyone liked his reply since they smiled or nodded, even Blaise let out a smile of praise. Everyone wanted to be better than their fallen or failed parents. Draco wanted to be better, even though he didn’t really want it- but the urge was great. He had to be better than his father. It was a test of endurance, a test of intellect, the temptation of pride was too great to resist, and all of them found reasons to be better than the others, be better than their parents and be better for Lord Voldemort.

Draco felt trapped. He was swimming in something he knew he couldn’t swim away from. It was like swimming in a tank, with his mother as shark bait on one side and Hermione and the rest of them as crocodile delicacy on the other side. But something good had come out of their attack at the New Vaults…Hermione was alive! She was breathing! He had kissed her, embraced her! He had said three words he had wanted to say for so long! Was it the right moment, even! But she was alive! It was what mattered. Hermione was alive…as long as she stayed alive, Draco was glad to die for her, glad to hurt for her just to see her breathing, just to know she was there, far away from his touch, but close enough in his mind…

“ Of course you’re better than your father, “ Blaise said. “ I have faith in you, even up to now. No matter how different we are at times. “

“ No matter how much you want me dead? “ Draco raised a brow.

“ I don’t want you dead, “ Blaise rebuffed. “ Well…I did before. But I’ve seen the error in that judgment. Now we work together with trust. All of us... “

Daphne wanted to strangle Blaise after hearing those words. She clenched her teeth, almost hearing them grind together. The damned hypocrite! How she wanted Blaise suffering before her! How she imagined Lord Voldemort punishing him for all his hypocrisies and pathetic efforts! He had done nothing! Nothing at all!

They began discussing in low voices, with occasional laughter, despite the seriousness prevailing.

“ I feel strangely compelled to call you my brothers-in-arms, “ Blaise said with a laugh. “ We have been through a lot of shit, after all. “

“ Yes, we have, “ Nott said good-naturedly. “ Good shit and bad shit. “

“ Bad shit is more I like it, “ Daphne thought, eyeing Blaise with a repulsed look. She bit her lower lip hard that she could almost taste blood. But there was good shit now, of course. Just a few more hours…she could feel the excitement rushing through her like a bad drink gone well inside her system. She could feel the honor, the rewards, and the touch of the Master once he was whole and human in form again, with god-like power…she would see once and for all the greatness that was Tom Marvolo Riddle…

“ Well…we’re done here. You all know where, right? “ Draco asked them. “ And say- send your goodbyes to the people that have meant something to you…” he finally said, with a slight hesitation.

They all nodded.

Lord Voldemort, Theodore Nott thought grimly, here we come…

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Pansy was busy leafing through Witch Weekly’s, wondering what perfect color would represent her in the ball she was planning. Marko had been quite busy lately, and she was dying to know why- but somehow, he remained detached on that matter. Marko entered the bedroom they shared together and she looked up. He was dressed all in black.

“ Where are you going? “ she asked with a raised brow.

“ Work, darling. “

“ At this time of the night? “ she queried, raising her brow even more.

He nodded. “ We’re having a row with the English Aurors. Apparently, they’ve been meddling into the Bulgarian Auror’s affairs. “

Her mouth pouted. “ Really now, “ she said licking her lower lip. “ What color do you think would be good as the dominant theme for the Halloween ball? “

He did not answer her. Instead he was busy adjusting his coat; it seemed he was busy NOT listening to her. Her mouth became ugly. She stood up from the love chair. “ You’re not even listening to me. “

He gave her a quick smile. “ Darling, I have a lot of things in my head, I’m really sorry. I know the ball will turn out great- you’ll turn out great, no matter what color you choose. “

She felt the threads of her patience go loose. Something was wrong. He was not telling her something. And she had so wanted to tell him something…something that could change the way she looked at life, something that could change how she saw Marko…change how she saw Draco…

“ Marko- “

“ I’ll be back, Pansy, “ he said as he kissed her on the lips. His lips remained on hers for awhile, and Pansy felt the hairs on her nape rise.

“ Will you be back soon? “ she asked, the pitch of her voice changing to a softer one.

His gaze at hers lingered for awhile. Then he nodded. “ Of course. “ Of course not. But he could not tell her, for he did not want her to worry, or get into a business not for her. He knew his wife didn’t love him the way he loved her. But he tried his best. Once or twice, he had heard Pansy murmur in her sleep ‘Draco’. And he felt crushed. But that was the way things were. He had been the best replacement for Draco. And still he loved Pansy.

And Pansy felt that somehow- he was lying to her. She had never felt that helpless and vulnerable in all her married life.

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Lupin was in the living room, placing on his dragon hide boots. His family was asleep, and he had not chosen to tell his wife that tonight was the night where the Deatheaters planned to have Voldemort resurrected. He heard a little noise.

He looked up and saw no one at the staircase. But he knew that someone was there. “ Sirius? What are you doing awake? “

His son slowly came out of his hiding place, his hair a flaming red tonight, as opposed to the bright blue earlier at dinner when he was making his parents laugh. “ Da? Where are you going? I couldn’t sleep…” his voice trailed off.

“ Work, “ he replied quickly. “ You should be in bed by now; you should have been asleep a long time ago. “

“ Da- “ Sirius began. “ Are you going away on a mission? “

Lupin reached out his hand. “ Come here, Sirius. “

Sirius slowly walked up to his father. “ Da- I don’t want you to go…”

Lupin smiled. It was painful- it was hard. Would he live to see his family again? Would he live to see his son grow up? Be an Auror? Be a wizard? Marry and have children? He had kissed his wife as she lay sleeping. He had not told her anything. She had not shown any sign that she had known during dinner time. She was happy chatting away, changing her hair color to make Sirius laugh.

“ I’ll be back soon, “ Lupin finally said. He hugged his little boy tightly. “ You do know Da loves you very much right? You do know Da would do anything to protect you and your mum right? “

“ You love mum too? You wouldn’t do anything to hurt her? “

Lupin shook his head. “ I love your mum very much. I wouldn’t want her to cry- I don’t want her hurt. It’s just that daddy has a lot of things to do. But I want you to be good while I’m gone, eat your veggies and don’t give your mum a hard time, like refusing to do your homework? “

Sirius shook his head earnestly. His young mind was trying to understand what his Da was saying. He felt that his Da was saying goodbye.

“ Da- “ he began. “ I got five stars today. The teacher said my stag was very good. “

Lupin kissed his son’s head. “ That’s good to know, Sirius. You’re always my little genius. “ And without meaning to, he felt a tear escape the corner of his eye.

From the upstairs, Tonks was listening to the entire hushed conversation. She was leaning against the banisters, hugging herself as she felt tears spill onto her cheeks.

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A chilly air lingered, as it always did. It was a few minutes before twelve midnight, and they were quiet, as quiet as the night. Who would have known? That in this night, in this seemingly ordinary night, would spark a new fear in the hearts of wizards everywhere? They were on high alert, the American Aurors, the other European Aurors; even the Asian Aurors were called in for alert. But only the English Aurors felt the deep peril that was slowly rising out of the heavy fog that was engulfing the area.

They had Aurors in Little Hangleton, had Aurors near the homes of the Malfoys, Zabini’s, Greengrass’s and even had a few Aurors in Europe closely guarding the activities of the Sarovic’s. Ron had kissed his parents that night and hugged his mother tightly. It had been at dinner time, and Hermione had joined them for dinner, she was playing with little Philip, getting pointers from an over enthusiastic Fleur, who was convinced she was going to be a good mother, despite her not finding Mr. Right yet. They had a barrel of laughs, from the Twins antics, to Philip’s burping…

And Ron somehow felt he would not see them again, be in this happy moment again- that he wouldn’t get to taste his mother’s minced meat pies, or scold Ginny for being too vocal of her opinions, or hear his father rave of how jolly good muggle inventions were…Ron knew that Hermione knew about the whole plan the Aurors had, despite her not being there during their meeting.

Ginny had spoken to him earlier, as they were helping out with dinner. She had approached him as he was picking out apples in the little orchard they had for their mother’s apple pie. Suddenly Ginny had hugged him tightly, with tears in her eyes.

“ Ron? Come back in one piece, okay? “ she had whispered.

Ron stood there, shocked and all, but he slowly nodded, hoping that his nod would turn out to be true. “ What makes you think I won’t-? “

She shrugged and sniffled. “ Knowing you…just- just come back alive. “

Hermione had eyed Ron as they were having coffee in the garden. The men of the family were discussing the events that had happened so far…the attacks and the rumored rising of the most feared wizard…Both of them felt that this was their last supper…

Hermione was thinking: I’ve never gone this far before…I thought the fight we had while Harry was still alive against Lord Voldemort topped it all off…how was I to know it would come to this? That I would lose Harry and find him in Draco? Was it right to love Draco, when I knew that Harry’s heart was in him? And now…now…we all feel…all of us Aurors think that the Deatheaters are taking advantage of Draco’s heart- no- Harry’s heart…wait…Draco’s heart…oh god, Draco! I still love him…I still love you! No matter how painful it is…I can’t keep denying you! You’re not Harry! You’re Draco! I’ve fallen for Draco, Draco Malfoy...

Ron was thinking: Damn it! How do I stop all this! Harry…what the hell…I wish you were alive right now…to ease my fear and Hermione’s pain and…and just help us stop all this! What would I have done if I were you? Would I wait? Follow Professor Lupin’s hunch? You were always so good at figuring things out, no matter how far flung they all seemed…It doesn’t seem like a fair fight….they know us…we don’t know them too well…they’ve been too good…they’ve learned from their mistakes- their predecessor’s mistakes…and now…Draco is the horcrux? How do you kill him without hurting Hermione? I didn’t tell Professor Lupin everything…I must be a fool…I’m keeping secrets from my own team leader…but Hermione…friends first…that’s what Harry would have done…who the hell am I kidding...

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Theodore Nott had never felt more serious in all his youthful life. Draco had said words he never thought would get to him. Yes…how do you say goodbye to someone you cared for? Loved? Did he even feel it? Never….not once…well….there was this one time…he shook his head and tried to collect his emotions. It was not love, was it? Could it have been love? Daphne was in love with Draco Malfoy, not Theodore Nott. He didn’t look as dashing as Draco, nor was he as charming as Blaise. His coffers were not over flowing with gold and jewels, either. He shook his head for the nth time that he was alone in his house.

How do you say goodbye to Daphne Greengrass? How do you tell her you love her, the first time you felt something like that in your entire life? Leave a letter? Address your entire will to her when she had more than what you could offer?

He had done something unthinkable before- he had given Hermione something he never thought he would. It was now up to Hermione if she would use it or not- if she would figure out what it was for…. It had been that day he had gone to Borgin and Burkes…bought something insignificant to the ordinary eye- but he knew what it was for…Draco had a chance to live- he had never done something for someone else before…but he had seen something in Draco’s love for Hermione that kindled a fire in his heart…he had not even told Draco that….he had not been entirely honest to his coven. He had read some areas of Snape’s journal without telling anyone else, not even Draco. He had wanted to have the upper hand against all of them…have more rewards from the Master than anyone else in his coven. He was selfish, in a way. Typical Slytherin trait. And it bothered him somehow.

He walked up to an old jewelry box and took out something with two of his fingers. It shone in the light of the candles. He kissed it and kept it quickly inside his robes.

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Blaise stood in his trophy room, holding a glass of fire whisky in one hand, as his eyes roamed around the strange room he had felt comfortable in since he was small, since his real father was still alive. Yes…how do you say goodbye to Daphne? He felt a strange sensation in his loins…the need to exercise his virility- the need to show to Daphne why he was far better than Draco Malfoy, in bed and out of it. He had thought of killing Daphne, so that no one could take her away from him…maybe he should ask for the Master’s assistance or advice on that matter…

His mother was another thing. She was like a dream that flitted in and out of his life, leaving Blaise, in his younger years alone with a house elf or with relatives Blaise liked to snub a lot. Blaise had learned to be independent very young and he had not regretted being alone most of his life. He had always thought that it was loneliness that made one stronger, and had always put into mind that the Master became strong through being alone.

It had been years since Hogwarts, but Blaise never forgot the girl that had stirred lust inside of him, and that was Daphne. There was an aura of power and determination around her, coupled with her sultry looks. And he hated the idea that she seemed to like Draco more than him. Blaise was confident that their ritual would go uninterrupted, and that power would be his in a few minutes time.

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Draco was alone for a moment, writing a letter to his mother as she lay sleeping in her own room. He had done enchantments to seal his mother in, for the seals would only be broken once he was done with his task. He was in his room. He paused for a moment to recollect the events prior to him coming to his room. How was he going to do this?

How do you say goodbye to someone you love?

He held the fine feathered quill, its hues changing from green to violet to a fiery red under the glow of the candles…he stared at the empty piece of parchment and frowned. Even in a letter. It was never easy…he dipped the quill into the golden bottle of black ink and began to write to his mother:



~

October 31, 2005

Mother,

When you awake, you will find me long gone and my task completed. I apologize for having had to put you to sleep- I had to mother, for I want you unharmed and alive. I have sensed that you have feared that I would become like the man you married, for I am his son, after all. Sadly mother, I have become somewhat like him…and I know I cannot turn back. If I had to turn back- I would have escaped this a long time ago and I would have not allowed it to go this far.

I hold an unbearable curse, mother, that of Harry’s heart- that of me being the horcrux and I know I should have told you about the latter, but I could not. It’s both pride and the need to see you safe. And yes, Hermione’s included in that need. For I love her mother, for the first time, I truly loved without fear, without regret, without father’s voice; screaming that I should not, for my bloodline’s sake.

I am caught mother; I am caged between this temptation of power and the need to live to see you safe for the moment. You’ve told Lupin of my activities, I know, no matter how much you hide it, and I cannot blame you. I am humbled by the love you have given me, your concern to keep me safe. Live for me, for I know I won’t. Love for me, for I feel I will no longer have the opportunity to do so. Thank you so much for everything…

Draco

~



Draco felt a sense of triumph and a sense of sadness with that finished letter. One down, one more to go…he melted candle wax over the envelope and placed his stamp over it. The Malfoy crest shone in the lights. Yes, one down, one more to go…

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A/N: yep! down with chappie 35! Basically this chappie dealt with emotions and goodbyes. I only used a few characters, basically those that have bigger backgrounds in HP canon. what's instore for the next chapter? even more exciting, i assure you! if you haven't noticed...there hasn't been much muggle interaction or muggle things (like Vogue, jaguar...)...will there be more soon? hehe

Oh yeah, i didn't upload for a long time, hoping more might discover this fic. i'm quite afraid that it isn't good enough for most of the fanfic readers. i hope i am proved wrong. it's just a bit frustrating to know you've tried your best and still it seems to lack.

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