There was a moment, only a moment, in which Harry wished to turn around and abandon his plans in the forest, but if he stayed he’d be damning everyone he loved. This was the right thing. He kept telling himself that over and over as he made his way deeper into the Forbidden Forest.
Only after he had spoken to the ghosts of his past did his faltering resolve return with vigor. This was absolutely the right thing. He had to believe that Ron and Hermione would kill the snake, that they would tell everyone why Voldemort would soon be easy enough to kill. He had to believe that their determination would not waver in mourning for Harry.
He wanted to turn back so badly.
A noise to his left startled Harry from his thoughts. He stopped dead and held his wand, ready to attack. The disarming charm was barely on his lips before Draco came crashing through some brush, disheveled and covered in twigs and dirt. Harry lowered his wand, confused and then suddenly worried. “What are you doing here?”
Draco looked Harry up and down and grimaced. “You can’t do this.” He exhaled, moving to grab Harry’s wrist. He was prepared to drag the Chosen One back to the castle if he had to.
Harry wrenched his arm away and scowled. “Go back to the castle, Malfoy. Go…where it’ll be safe.”
“No.” Draco stood resolute. “You can’t do this.” He repeated, something in his voice wavering. “He’ll kill you.”
Rolling his eyes, Harry wanted to scream ‘No duh’ but kept it to himself. Instead he sighed. "I know." Could he tell Draco then, what his friends already knew? Or had saving his life from the Fiendfyre just been a one act show?
Draco didn’t understand. Of course he couldn’t understand. He wanted to smack the stupid prat because how could he? How could he want to die and leave everything behind?
"There's no other way." Harry mumbled as he resumed his walking.
Draco followed behind, trying to think of anything to stop him. "There’s got to be."
Harry kept walking but he looked sidelong at Draco over his shoulder. "Why do you care? Your family will be back in his good graces soon enough." He hadn't meant to sound so cruel but the words spilled forth unstopping. He could feel Draco's resolve get colder, more defensive but Harry kept on walking. It wasn’t as if the past few years hadn’t happened, that their hatred towards each other was a figment of their imagination. "Go Draco, if they see you with me they'll think it’s a trick."
"That's it!" Draco exclaimed. If there were any forest animals around them surely a few would have jumped and bolted at the sudden noise. Harry shushed Draco immediately as they both stopped in their tracks.
"What's it?" He asked, grabbing Draco’s arm to pull him closer so he could talk quieter.
Draco would have smiled at his brilliance but he couldn't quite bring the corners of his mouth up. "We could trick them."
Harry stared, a bit baffled at the suggestion, for a few seconds before actually rolling his eyes. "Malfoy..."
"No listen. I'll hide myself...somewhere...and then distract everyone. Then you can get your shot in."
Again, Harry seemed baffled, almost confused as to what Draco was saying. "My shot in?"
Draco stared, a bit frustrated that Harry wasn't on the same wavelength as him. "To kill the Dark Lord."
Harry stared dead pan back at Draco. Sure killing Voldemort would have essentially been the inevitable plan enacted in his name from those that meant the most to him but he needed Draco to get far far away. He couldn’t be seen working on the side of good. "I-I can't do that. Do you know what you’re asking to do?"
Again, Harry tried to shush Draco.
"What do you mean you can't do that? What is the point of this war if not to end it by killing you or him?" Draco seemed incredulous. How could this have been the conversation they were having when he was envisioning the righteous Harry Potter to agree at once to end his mortal enemy?
“I have to try.”
“Try. What.” Draco was almost seething at the ineptitude that was Harry James Potter.
Harry took a deep breath. He was so tired. Tired and grimy and worn out and in the end he just wanted it to end. Talking to his loved ones solidified his desire to be with them. He couldn't disappoint them now. He looked away for a moment at his feet, his shoes covered in as much dirt and grime as the rest of him was. “I have to see if he can stop all of this. I have to at least give him a chance.” Though some of that may have been true, he couldn’t quite bring himself to tell Draco that he knew he must die for the war to end. “If he could feel remorseful-”
A sickening crack resonated the forest around them as Draco reeled back and punched Harry square in the jaw. Harry staggered back but was caught by a nearby tree. He was stunned for sure, if only surprised at what Draco had done. He stared wordlessly at the blonde who was now huffing and puffing with rage.
“Are you so stupid as to think the Dark Lord capable of feeling anything but destruction? He doesn't care for your stupid feelings or your desire for a better world because to him a better world is one where you aren't in it.” Harry continued to stare, dumbstruck at the words, the emotion spilling from the youngest Malloy. “He doesn't care what you want and he doesn't care that you'll try.”
Harry knew it, knew what Draco and everyone else back at the castle would want. For him to come back, to be safe, to win. Isn't that what he wanted a long time ago? He rubbed his sore jaw and stood, resolved to tell Draco the truth.
“He can’t die while I live.”
Draco stopped his raving, all color draining from his face. He had a lot more to say and felt a certain loss at the words Harry had spoken. “What do you mean?”
“I have a part of his soul inside me, just as the snake does in it. While we both live he can’t die. I have to die if only to lessen his odds.”
The silence between them was a bit deafening and went on for what seemed like too long. When Draco spoke, it was barely above a whisper.
“I’ll kill Nagini.”
Harry stared, a feeling like he had never known to grow for Malfoy did in that moment. Draco’s rebellion against the dark side, against a life he may be giving up, was enough to solidify Harry’s trust.
“I hope so.”
Then they began to walk.
At some point, Harry hadn't known when, Draco silently hung back and moved about the trees to get into position. Harry kept going, his feet hit the solid dirt with heavy thumping. His heart beat in his chest. Draco had made his decision and Harry wouldn’t deny him of it.
He made it to the clearing where Voldemort and his followers stood waiting for him. Hagrid shouted something but Harry couldn’t quite hear him. His heart pounded loudly in his chest as his eyes caught those of the Dark Lord before him.
Harry tried to calm his nerves. His hands balled into fists, nails digging deep into his palms. He breathed in and out and Voldemort smiled.
“Harry Potter.” Voldemort spoke, the air chilling around the clearing. “The Boy Who Lived…come to d-“
A bright light flashed green between the two and hit the ground opposite where it had come from.
Draco had shot too soon, but he had struck his target. Nagini crumpled to the ground and died.
Chaos erupted just as the ground had when the spell had struck. Harry turned to see Draco just as Voldemort hissed and raised his wand in defense. Bellatrix gasped loudly before she too raised her wand. She spent no second of delay however before shooting a hex towards Draco.
Narcissa cried out somewhere behind the group as Draco narrowly dodged the attack.
With everyone looking at the distraction, Harry raised the wand in his hand and pointed it at Voldemort. The time span of two seconds seemed to pass by in minutes. Red eyes shifted from the tiny battle to see Harry and the wand. Harry could feel the spell on his lips, the most forbidden of the forbidden, and sense the rise in his magic as it started at his feet and crept up along his body. He could feel it in his chest and gripped the wand tight as it moved down his arms into his hands. If he could coax Voldemort to use the same curse on Harry then he could end this swiftly and justly.
He wasn’t sure what look passed by on Voldemort’s face for if it had been a normal human face it could surely have been shock, surprise even, and a flash of fear. His mouth seemed to open as if to be ready to counterattack.
Harry could do it, he could say the curse.
The Killing Curse.
The words began to force their way past his lips before something suddenly struck him from behind, hard. Harry stumbled and felt the grip on the wand loosen. He tried to look over his shoulder as he heard a sickening cry come from somewhere near him. One of the Death Eaters had flown behind him and cracked him over the head with a heavy rock. It continued to levitate in the air before coming down on Harry’s head a second time.
Though Harry would have immediately have passed out from the pain as he fell, he lay there, vision suddenly blurry and a sickening hollow feeling formed in the pit of his stomach. He looked up, watching a fuzzy version of the Dark Lord glide towards him and just as long fingers ran themselves through his hair and grabbed a good chunk, he heard Voldemort laugh and then darkness enveloped him.