The light was blinding. Astoria blinked several times before she could finally see the two figures standing in the door of her cell with firelight and a patronus behind them. They were both large, burly men. One with a scratchy looking black beard covering half his face. The other was clean shaven, with small, beady hazel eyes that watched her like a hawk as she whimpered in the corner of the cell.

The men grabbed her roughly and forced Astoria onto her feet. She was weak though, her mind still racing, making her see red everywhere she looked. The screams still rang, but quieter than they did before when the dementor was still there. Astoria blinked again as she stepped into the blinding light of the corridor.

Outside her cell, the corridor was extravagant. It was all green marble and flaming torches held up by bronze. It was nothing at all like the bare cage she was held in. Astoria stumbled over her feet as they made their way down the corridor. She practically had to be dragged there to the large, wooden double doors. Witches and wizards in fine robes pursed their lips at her and scurried away, as if her criminal life were contagious.

In the polished gold on the double doors, Astoria could make out her reflection clearly. She was caked in dirt and blood, clumps of it drying in her hair. And her eyes, it wasn’t just the skin around them that had darkened as if she hadn’t slept in weeks, but her pupils were dilated, almost no white could be seen. They looked like just two black holes in her face. What she had not expected though was for the fabric of her jumper to be all torn apart, exposing the raw, red skin underneath on her forearms. They were covered in long scratches, all fresh, from Astoria’s own nails. She couldn’t recall scratching herself that much, but the blood coating her nails proved as much.

The doors swung open and Astoria was faced with the grand Wizengamot court. The empty seats stared at her as the guard shoved her towards the chair in the centre. It had a high, straight back, like a throne, but with shackles at the arms and legs to strap her in. A large man in a black cloak that covered his head strapped Astoria into the chair, and finally, she looked up at her.

“Miss Astoria Hadley Greengrass,” the lady in pink enunciated each syllable of the name slowly, like she was playing with the words in her mouth before spitting them out again. Astoria shuddered at the sound of her voice, a voice she thought she’d never hear again after her third year. The garish pink still made her squirm in her seat.

“Charged with underage sorcery, truancy, illegal use of the Fidelius charm, conspiracy to commit a crime, human trafficking, resisting arrest, felony assault against a law enforcement officer, aiding mudbloods, aiding in desertation and insubordination, and high treason against the Ministry of Magic,” Dolores Umbridge read off from her long list in one breath as her shrill voice echoed through the empty chamber. “How do you plead?”

~

Draco rushed to Daphne’s side as her eyes shot open, screams of terror emitting from her. She cried out louder than he’d ever heard her before, shaking in her little cot. Draco tried to hold her down, but Daphne screamed on and on at some invisible enemy. Tears streamed from her face as she convulsed and thrashed.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” she cried out between ear splitting shrieks. She seemed to be begging someone’s forgiveness, desperation in her bloodshot eyes. Her mind was plagued with nightmares, Draco realized. She could have peaceful sleep no more than he could because the same images plagued them when their eyes were shut. Images of devastation and death that they caused. She had the same remorse on her face that he felt every day.

Slowly, Daphne’s cries softened as she tired herself out. Her loud wails became a soft squeak, but still she shook in her spot and her eyes darted around pleading with invisibly enemies. Inside her head, all she could hear were her taunting demons berating her, blaming her, their voices ringing true nonetheless. Pain pulsed through every part of her, but she’d already felt too much to still be pulsed by it. So instead she calmed slowly until she felt nothing at all and once again laid on her side, eyes shut, breathing even.

“Daph?” Draco said softly. He placed his hand gently on her shoulder, still holding that goblet of clear water for when she woke up.

Daphne blinked three times and rubbed her hand against her eyes. Her nightmares and hallucinations stopped plaguing her, allowing her this one moment of peace. She quickly adjusted to the dark dungeon and all the lethargy seemed to leave her all at once as she dragged herself up against the wall despite her leg and ribs and arm screaming out in pain with her wand grasped tightly.

“Don’t come any closer,” she said in a shaky, hoarse voice. Daphne’s right hand shook as her left hand clutched onto her side. She seemed to be wheezing though her chest moved up and down ferociously.

“Woah,” Draco dropped his wand to the floor and held out the cup for her. “I just saved your life.”

“What?”

“Bellatrix? The Great Hall?” he raised his eyebrow at her and set the goblet at her feet before moving back again and sitting down again cross legged in front of her. “She was going to kill you.”

“I can take care of myself,” Daphne replied sharply.

“Didn’t look like it,” Draco shrugged. “Drink. Your throat must be killing you. How are your ribs? I think your leg is broken too.”

Daphne eyed the goblet suspiciously before pushing it away with her good foot. She crossed her arms loosely over her chest and narrowed her eyes at Draco again, her wand still at the ready. Despite her battered and bruised appearance, Daphne still had a dangerous look about her.

“Why would you help me? I’m a blood traitor.”

“You were my friend,” he said simply. Draco took the goblet and drank all the water in one gulp. “Daph, I know what it’s like. Bellatrix… the training. I went through it too. You have nightmares about it, don’t you?”

“I don’t need your concern. I’m perfectly fine,” she said. With one hand on the wall pushing up with all her strength onto her one good leg, Daphne stood up despite the screaming protest from her breaking body. She waved her wand and conjured a crude splint around her leg and stiff bandages wrapping up her ribs. Her breathing became ragged and tight as the bandages squeezed her together.

“You can’t go back out,” Draco protested. “You can’t even walk.”

“Get out of my way,” Daphne breathed heavily between each word, as if each one was some strenuous labour. She hobbled slowly though the pain felt like walking on knives.

“Daphne, please,” Draco grabbed her arm. “You’ll die if you go back out there.”

“Then I’ll die taking her down.” She pushed past him again and continued her slow journey towards the door and the stairs outside.

“Bellatrix isn’t worth it!” Draco shouted at last. She stopped in her tracks at the sound of her name echoing around the dungeon. “What about your sister, Daph? She’ll miss you. She has no one else. People care about you, Daphne. You can’t just walk into a suicide mission.”

“She killed Marcus,” Daphne said softly, her voice finally breaking. “She killed my parents. And she did this to me. To us. Draco, remember what she did to us.”

“I remember,” he said quietly again. “I’ll never forget that.”

“Then come with me and we can-“

“You have fought valiantly,” a voice began to echo through their heads. Daphne’s hand instinctively flew towards her left arm, clutching it tightly as the pain burned through her. “Lord Voldemort knows how to value bravery.”*

~

Astoria quivered in the tall wooden chair with her hands and legs shackled. The looming hooded figure stood beside her, his wand drawn, while in front of her up on the bench was the ferocious lady in pink herself. A silver cat patrolled the atrium, keeping three dementors at day, though Astoria could still feel their nauseating effect on her.

“How do you plead?” Umbridge asked in her sharp, shrill voice.

Astoria opened her mouth to beg for her life, but instead no sound came out of her swollen throat. She knew it was moot though, Bellatrix Lestrange would have surely already passed on the information that she was to be killed to break the Fidelius Charm.

“No matter,” Umbridge waved her pudgy arm. She signed a bit of parchment in front of her with a flourish of her white quill. “Guilty for all the charged crimes. The punishment – execution.”

Astoria felt her heart sink. The world stopped spinning, everything just froze. There was no way to fight this, no way out. This was the end of her journey. Or just a beginning, some would say. They’d tell her that maybe, just maybe there was life beyond. Something more. Somewhere she could find everyone she’d already lost. Where she could be with Johanna, her parents, all those people she’d lost. Her mind flickered over to Sam and Astoria wondered whether she’d see him beyond too.

No. She pushed that thought out of her head quickly. She was going to die now so that Sam could keep on living. She wasn’t so selfish as to wish him dead now that it was her fate. But still she wondered. Who would she see there? Daphne had never returned either, or maybe she had. Maybe it had been days since Daphne had left, maybe weeks. She had entirely lost track of time in the cell. Maybe even years had passed her by without her even realizing it. Astoria wondered if that was what death felt like.

“But I don’t want to kill you,” the voice snapped Astoria out of her reverie. She stared up at Umbridge with those big, empty black eyes. They looked like marbles in her porcelain doll face, as if all the life had already been drained from them ages ago. An execution would just be a formality.

“I think we can help each other,” Umbridge continued, a small smile spreading across her toad-like face. “Don’t you want to help me?”

Again, Astoria opened her mouth to protest, to request that they skip straight to the execution part of this, but no sound came out from her closed up corpse throat. She had no energy left to talk, no life left inside her to help anyone, not even herself. Astoria had nothing left of her, she could not feel, she could smell. It was as if the world had already faded into nothingness except for the ringing voice of Dolores Umbridge and the ever-present red that was doomed to stain her vision forever.

“I just want to know a few things,” Umbridge stepped down from her podium and began to circle Astoria slowly. She walked with her hands tucked behind her, the short wand she used hidden from sight. “And you know, we’ve run out of veritaserum. You’re just going to have to tell me.”

She stopped circling right in front of Astoria. She folded her arms over her chest and held her wand between her fingers. She seemed to be itching to use it, but Astoria didn’t meet her eye. Instead, her head hung low, staring at the dark brown blood drying in her nails.

“You know Miss Greengrass, I have some news that may interest you,” Umbridge tapped her lightly on the top of her head with her wand, searing her skin at the point, but Astoria didn’t even flinch. “About your sister. Remind me dear, what’s her name again?”

“Daphne,” Astoria finally breathed out, her head lifting up, those dark eyes staring into the tip of Umbridge’s wand. She could suddenly feel the burning on her scalp, she could smell the seared flesh and hair on her head. And instead of red, Astoria could see pink. Umbridge looked back at her with a smirk and continued her circling like a vulture.

“She’s at Hogwarts right now. One of my agents has updated me on the battle. Don’t you want to know what he had to say about your blood traitor sister?”

“My sister is a hero!” Astoria spat out, her voice suddenly going from barely there, to echoing around the circular chamber. She pulled against the restraints that held her in, rattling the chains and ripping into her wrists in ankles. She could already feel the cuts forming, angry, red welts where the metal met her skin.

“Dead or alive?” Umbridge flicked her wand once and Astoria was pushed back into the chair as if restrained by a million invisibly ropes. “What do you think?”

Astoria could not move against her magical restraints. She was stuck, her back straight against the chair and her wrists frozen as she tugged against the metal cuffs. She could only speak, nothing else at all. She thought of Daphne in the school, with Marcus going after her. So he had not brought her back after all. Maybe he just hadn’t found her yet, it was a big place to search for one girl, but maybe he had and just couldn’t convince her to return to the camp. Things would be different if Daphne was still at camp, Astoria thought bitterly. If she hadn’t run off, things wouldn’t be like this.

The Fidelius charm dies with you, Astoria. She remembered the man with the walrus mustache telling her that. Arnaut, that was his name, she finally recalled. They called him the mastermind behind the safe house system. But he was dead too and it was only her who could keep protecting the safe houses. They were still protected as long as she was alive.

They’re all going to die now, Astoria thought to herself. She could not die, yet here she was looking her executioner in the face. Perhaps she could have some last solace in death if she knew Daphne’s fate.

“What do you want to know?” Astoria finally asked through gritted teeth.

~

Katherine’s hands shook as she dripped dittany over Sam’s wound. It looked like a stab directly into his abdomen, she suspected near the liver. The spell was one she didn’t recognize, a purple light, a fatal wound. It had the markings of dark magic, but being in the department creature-induced injuries, her knowledge of dark magic was limited. The wound closed slightly as the dittany settled in, though the blood still poured out and Sam’s moans of pain were still echoing through her ears. The dittany burned him, but Katherine knew it could save him.

“I’m sorry,” she cried as his breathing turned heavier. Sam seemed to be trying to hold in his own screams, trying to hold himself together as he lay there slowly bleeding to death. Rory watched the scene from a few steps away. He stood there, unmoving, eyes frozen on his older brother. The red blood threatened to stain his blue trainers, but still, the child did not move.

Katherine pressed down on the rest of the wound hard with a thick cotton jumper she’d got in the tent. Sam screamed from the pain of the pressure, but the bleeding slowly stopped and he was kept alive for another minute. She kept pushing down, but then the bleeding started again and began to seep through the cotton, blossoming red on the coarse brown. Katherine’s hands were already stained with dark, dried red blood.

“You’ll be okay,” she repeated again and again, her voice growing more and more breathless as she pressed down fruitlessly on her child’s wound. She shut her eyes and desperately tried to think of what the next step was. Her years of healing training at St Mungo’s were failing her, having never taught her what to do if she had nothing. She knew to heal this wound she needed an antibiotic potion for any possibly infection, charmed bandages to hold him together while she slowly sewed up the stitches, a sleeping draught to put him under as a stun was too dangerous in his state. She to check for internal injuries, that she could do with a spell, but she needed a scan for dark magic in his system as well and she couldn’t do that without the dark traces detector that only existed on the spell damage floor and in the Department of Mysteries.

She needed someone to hold him together while she stitched, Katherine suddenly realized. Without the aid of charmed bandages, she needed someone to physically hold his spilling insides together while she stitched him back up. It would only take her about ten seconds, but if no one was holding him in that time, Sam would not make it. Katherine looked nervously at Rory, but he didn’t meet her eye. The eight-year-old was still staring straight ahead at Sam.

She couldn’t ask that of her youngest child, Katherine decided. But if she didn’t ask that, Sam would die. But Rory, Katherine couldn’t allow her baby to be scarred like that, to have his brother’s blood staining his soft hands.

Please God, Katherine begged, her eyes shut towards the sky. She remembered her childhood sitting in the church on Sundays with her parents, her wedding in the church, her children’s baptisms, though they hadn’t been since Rory’s. Katherine and Marcus didn’t consider themselves believers, but she had nothing left.

“Please bring them all back to me,” Katherine pleaded with whoever was up there.

“It’s… it’s okay mum,” Sam managed to sputter out between deep, broken breaths. Each word was pain, but it still hurt the boy to see his strong, brave mother cry for him.

“I’m going to save you, I’ll save you,” Katherine’s hands shook as she kept pressing down, nothing else she could do for him except keep him alive these last few agonizing minutes. The kind thing to do was to let him go, Katherine knew this, but she couldn’t let her child die. She shut her eyes again, swaying on the forest floor, hoping, praying for something to come to her.

It seemed that hours had passed when Katherine opened her eyes again, but Sam was still bleeding, still breathing, though his heart was slowing more and more as blood escaped from his wound. Katherine stared into his blue eyes, her heart breaking.

“Accio knife,” she said quickly, then put both hands back on his wound before he screamed out again. The knife zipped towards her and lay on the grass next to her.

“Rory, darling please come here,” she stared at her younger son, but still he did nothing. “Come here darling, mummy needs your help.”

The little boy’s eyes flickered over to meet his brother’s matching ones. Rory’s hands began to shake, but he still didn’t blink.

“Go,” Sam breathed out, giving his brother a weak smile. Rory lip began to quiver, he looked like he was going to cry, but still he ran towards his mother at his brother’s request. Katherine wanted to scream for Rory to run back into the tent, where he’d be safe from what she was about to do, but she couldn’t lose one of them, she couldn’t lose a son too. She shifted her eyes back and forth between her two sons’ bright blue eyes, the spitting image of their father’s. Marcus had been gone for far too long, she couldn’t lose Sam too.

“Rory darling,” Katherine began, trying to make her voice as smooth as possible. “I need you to hold the knife. Just hold it.”

Rory stared at the large butcher’s knife at his feet. It was at least eight inches long, wider than his palm with a coarse wooden handle. It was unused, a last resort hidden inside the survival kit the Greengrass girls had taken from their cabin when it was attacked. Rory held the massive knife in both his hands in front of his face so that he could see his reflection in it.

“You can’t drop it,” Katherine said gently, though her voice wobbled. “No matter what, don’t drop it.”

He nodded.

“Incendio,” Katherine whispered. Fire jetted out form her wand and engulfed the knife’s shiny blade. She kept the blue flame trained on the knife until it began to glow red. She took the knife and bit her lip, breathing hard. Sam and Rory stared at their mother, eyes wide with confusion.

“Go back in the tent darling,” Katherine said, not meeting his eyes. “Don’t look back.”

Rory stumbled to his feet, but didn’t move, his eyes trained on the glowing blade in his mother’s hands. “Go,” she urged him. She had such an urgency on her face, he finally nodded and turned, though tripping on his ankle on the way. As Rory picked himself up and began to run towards the tent, his brother screamed as Katherine lifted her hand from the wound and lifted the cotton jumper.

“I’m so sorry,” Rory heard his mother whisper. He reached the tan tent and zipped open the front flap. Just as he slipped inside, Rory heard his brother emit the loudest scream he’d ever heard before. It seemed to make the ground shake, it echoed inside his head, felt like a punch in the gut. He turned just in time to see his mother press the blade down on Sam’s stomach as he was paralyzed with pain. Tears stung her eyes as she pressed down and then lifted the blade again, then repeat. Again and again.

Rory shoved his little fists over his ears and shut his eyes tightly, but still, Sam’s screams haunted him.

~

His voice rang through their heads. Daphne had only met the Dark Lord once – when he forever branded her skin with his mark. His horrifying appearance was still burned into her memory though, his hissing voice, those black, billowing robes. He reminded her of a dementor, yet somehow even more terrifying. He had a way of worming into her brain, controlling her with fear without even being there. His name made her back down in deference without even seeing a face. It inspired fear in her, made her flinch, he controlled her every move for months.

“Let’s go,” Daphne finally said after the ringing in her ears and burning sensation on her arm nearly stopped. The dark mark, still bleeding under the dirty bandage Draco had conjured still burned despite the injury. Daphne could feel her whole body burning, she felt like she’d collapse any minute now that she had a second to feel.

She turned to grab Draco’s shoulder for support up the stairs, but instead her hand was greeted by empty air.

“Draco?” Daphne turned and saw nothing. He was gone, disappeared in a flash when the dark mark burned for him. Unlike Daphne, Draco Malfoy did not resist.

“Bloody coward,” she muttered under her breath. Daphne pushed up against the stone wall of the staircase and began to pull herself up the stairs, one step at a time. The splint on her leg threatened to break with each step and snap her bones all over again. She could feel her breathing growing shallow as her lungs seemed to deflate onto themselves. Daphne’s vision became blurred, her arms began shaking as she slowly collapsed, a mere ten steps up the tall, winding staircase.

She reached for her wand tucked into her trousers pocket, but her weak fingers could barely grasp the shiny wood. The wand slipped right out of her hand and tumbled down the stairs. Daphne couldn’t bring herself to go after it. She looked straight ahead instead, black spots obscuring her already fuzzy vision, as she listened to her wand fall.

Blood dripped from her down her cheek from a cut on her forehead that she hadn’t even noticed yet. The copper taste filled her mouth. Daphne spat it out onto the cold stones under her feet. She noticed a trail of blood behind her as she looked down, a thin line, sometimes a splatter, of bright red trailing up the staircase. The blood was coming from her leg where the splint jabbed into an open wound, but Daphne was already starting to lose feeling anyway.

Just a little further, she thought to herself. Each step was a mammoth climb as her whole body screamed for her to stop, to give up. Looking back, Daphne couldn’t even see the dim light where she started her trek, but looking forward, she couldn’t see beyond the black spots in her vision. Her hands clutched onto the sides of the wall, both of them shaking, but she couldn’t give up this close to help. Daphne tried to scream out, for someone to hear her, but her throat seemed to close up. There was no air left inside of her to shout out with.

Her hand slipped and in a second, Daphne found herself sprawled out on the stair case, her leg hanging limp behind her. She had no energy left to pick herself up again, the bleeding too much for her to handle on her own. Daphne’s eyes began to flutter shut, but every time she was greeted by darkness, her mind screamed out for her to open them again.

Never safe, Daphne reminded herself, not daring to close her eyes suddenly. Panic began to rise up inside her as she stayed there on the staircase, defenseless, vulnerable. She stared down at her thin legs, losing more and more blood, her bones shattered, skin torn. She felt as if she were disappearing. Slowly, bit by bit.

Her breathing sped up, she was grasping for air as her skin tightened all over her body. If felt as if she were trapped inside her own skin. With what energy she had left, Daphne scratched at her sides, as if trying to claw her way out of her own body. Her head was spinning as she whipped her head, vision still fading, all around the dark, narrow staircase searching for the hidden enemy that she was sure was there.

They’re always watching, Daphne thought. She’s always watching. Her dark piercing eyes seemed to be boring into Daphne’s skin from all directions. Her thin fingers grabbing at her, calling for her to come back to her.

“Daphne!” 



A/N: Woot! Finally another chapter! School has started, so I'm very behind on writing and such. I hope this chapter was worth the wait, again, I'm so sorry for keeping you guys waiting :/ I'll try to get into a better schedule for the home stretch! 

Stefanie

*This dialogue comes from Chapter Thirty-Three: The Prince's Tale of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling. 

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