The eerie quiet is disconcerting. After hours of vicious fighting, the quiet that arrived after the Dark Lord’s announcement doesn’t fit the destruction around me. Broken window shards, rubble from spell-blasted walls, blood stains, the stench of dark magic – it’s too much. I have to get out. I can’t stay here any longer.
Harry’s allotted hour is nearly up when I finally make it out of the ruined castle. I force myself to look in the Great Hall as I pass by. It became the makeshift infirmary when the Hospital Wing was destroyed. The far wall is lined with their dead, a great line of bodies that fill my heart with dread. The House tables have been pushed away, a few reduced to splinters. The wounded sit among the rubble as they are tended too.
There’s a mass of red hair about halfway down the hall. They’re huddled around a body on the ground. I count both Weasley parents, Weasel and Weaselette and Granger. It appears to be one of the twins who’s been killed but I don’t know which one. I don’t see Potter anywhere.
I push the lump in my throat down. I caused this. I caused the destruction and the death and the pain these people are in. I run from my spot by the door and don’t look back until I’ve made it halfway across the once Great Lawn. It’s littered with craters and bodies – the Death Eaters don’t have as much respect for their dead as the Light Side does.
A sliver of pale light wisps over the tops of the trees of the Forbidden Forest. In a few hours, the battle site will be shrouded in light. All the destruction illuminated. I can’t be here when that happens.
Mother and Father are in the forest now. I should go to join them but I can’t make my legs work. I’m not strong enough, I never have been, but yet I’ve let the darkness the Dark Lord preached become my mantra. I used to believe that He was right. Now I’m not sure He is.
There’s a figure standing near the edge of the Forest. He's outlined in light and from far away I know its Harry. The bloody Gryffindor is going to give himself up.
With a surge of strength, I run towards him. I can’t let him do this. He can’t. He’s the only one who can save us.
He turns and I can’t hold back the gasp of surprise. His clothes are rags, his skin littered with bleeding cuts and scars. Worse of all are his eyes. The green irises, usually so vibrant, are dull, the whites veined in red. Tear tracks cut down grimy cheeks, clean skin a stark difference against the grey pallor. He looks broken.
“What are you doing here,” he asks.
“I think I should be asking you that,” I reply.
He says nothing and scuffs his dirty shoes against the dead grass.
“Don’t think this is your only option.”
He looks up at me then. “Don’t pretend you know what I have and don’t have to do, Malfoy. I’m not going in there because I’m selfish. I’m doing this to save everyone.”
I take a step forward. “There has to be another way. You can’t die.”
“Neither can live while the other survives.”
“So why can’t it be Him? Why does it have to be you?”
“Because it just does!” Harry says sharply. He scrubs his hands over his face. “You don’t understand.”
“Of course I don’t understand! No one will understand! You say you’re doing this to save us but you’re really not. You’re killing us! Once you’re gone He’s going to take over and you’re not going to be here to save us.”
“I don’t want anyone else to die because of me!” He’s crying now, big fat tears bubbling up from his eyes. It’s heartbreaking. “I never wanted to be a hero. But I have to do this. It’s the only way.”
“Well I’m not letting you kill yourself for this!” I scream back at him. I’m on the verge of crying myself.
“Why do you care? Is it because I saved you from the Fiendfire?”
“I care because I love you, you idiot! And I’m not letting someone I love go and get themselves killed for stupid reasons!” The confession bubbles out of me. In that moment, I could care less. It had been festering in me all year and a weight came off my shoulders.
“You love me?” Harry asks quietly.
Instead of answering, I grab him and kiss him hard. I’m surprised when he kisses me back. His hands grip the shoulders of my shirt tightly and mine wind into his unruly hair. We clutch each other tightly like our lives depend on it, which, in a way, they do.
When we break apart, I rest my forehead against his. His green eyes are still closed.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” he whispers.
“There was never enough time,” I whisper back.
“You sure have awful timing, then.”
“It doesn’t have to be,” I say. He opens his eyes and looks at me deeply. “You don’t have to do this. We’ll find another way.”
Harry shakes his head and backs away. “There is no other way. Once I do this, He can be killed. For real, this time. This is the last piece of the puzzle.”
He steps forward and kisses me briefly, nuzzling my cheek when he backs away again. “I promise someone will explain it to you. Trust me when I say this is the only way.”
“Then let me go with you.”
“No, absolutely not.” His voice is firm. “You need to get out of here, get somewhere safe. Ron and Hermione know what happened at the Manor; they won’t let you get charged. And if they do, I’ll come back and haunt them.”
The tears I had been trying so hard to keep back rush down my face. “Don’t say that! I can’t let you die! Not when I just got you.”
Harry reaches out and brushes my tears away. “I’m sorry we don’t have more time. I’m sorry that this has to happen the way it is. I’m so, so sorry.”
I pull him towards me and hug him tightly. He rests his head against my shoulder and I feel hot tears against my skin. My heart is breaking and I can almost feel his breaking too.
“Do you still have my wand?” I whisper.
“Do you want it back?” Harry asks, equally quiet.
“No, keep it. So you’ll at least have something of mine with you.”
“Thank you,” Harry says. I lean down and capture his gratitude with my mouth.
When we part, it’s the hardest thing I’ve had to do in my life. The determination I’ve always seen in his eyes is back. He steps backwards and turns to face the trees. My wand is in his hand now and a golden snitch is gripped tightly in the other. He glances at me over his shoulder and I can tell he’s fending off tears. Then he’s gone, marching resolutely towards his death with the bravery of the strongest hero.
He didn’t say goodbye. I’m glad he didn’t because I don’t know how I would have dealt with the words. They seem so final. I have to believe that the impossible will happen even though logic dictates otherwise. When I can no longer see him through the trees, I turn and walk back up to the castle.
The sun is higher and brighter now and I am determined to fight for Harry with all the strength he’s given me.
I know immediately that it’s Ginny who has called my name. There are gasps but no sobs. I can imagine my friends and the people who have fought beside me covering their mouths with their hands. There will be no tears yet. There can’t be. Evil laughter cackles in the dead air around me. They’re laughing because they think they’ve won. Hagrid’s strong arms slowly lower me to the ground and he groans in pain when someone whips him for being too slow. A fat tear drips onto my face. A rock digs into my back. There is something sticky under my hair. I don’t move.
“Harry Potter is dead.” The words cut like knives. The icy tone grips at my chest, squishing like a vice around my lungs and heart. I know I have to kill him; there is no doubt in my mind now. I’ve destroyed all his Horcruxes; all but one. The snake remains. Hopefully it will be easily destroyed by someone else later in the commotion of my un-deadness.
“Your leader is gone. Surrender and bow before me or die.” Bellatrix Lestrange giggles with mad glee. Other Death Eaters mutter in agreement. There is a shuffling of feet and everything grows silent. I can scarcely imagine the pain Ron and Hermione and Draco are going through.
“I have something to say.” Neville’s voice carries over to where I lay. It’s strong and I’m proud of him and his courage.
“Stand down, Neville.” It’s Seamus this time.
“No, I’m sure we’d all be fascinated by what you have to say.” The knives and ice are back. I know it’s Him who’s talking. My fingers move closer to my chest, closer to Draco’s wand. I wonder why they didn’t take it from me.
Neville speaks of my passing and how people die every day. How that even though they lost me today, that the Light Side will still prevail and Voldemort will fall. There’s the familiar rustling of an old hat and the chink of a sword being drawn. There’s a commotion and it provides the perfect distraction I need.
I’m on my feet with wand in hand before anyone can blink. There’s a roar of rage as Voldemort discovers that his Killing Curse has failed to kill me for the second time. I’m running – faster than I’ve ever run before. Running from the Death Eaters who all have their wands trained on me. Running towards my friends and everyone I care about.
I fire spells over my shoulders as everyone rushes towards the demolished castle. Expelliarmus, Stupefy, Petrificus Totalus, Reducto; each spell hits dead on and another Death Eater falling from the pursuit. There’s a wailing shriek and over my left shoulder I watch as Neville slices Nagini’s head clean off with the Sword of Gryffindor.
There’s a call of “Don’t kill him!” from Voldemort and I pause in the middle of the entry hall. A flash of platinum blond hair catches my eye and I breathe out a small sigh of relief. Fighters from Hogwarts occupy the back of the hall while the Death Eaters crowd behind their Dark Lord in the front. There’s a large area of open space between them and I’m standing in the center of it.
“Neither can live while the other survives,” I say. “Come and join me Tom, come fight the battle you’ve been waiting for.” My voice and hands are steady. I hold up Draco’s wand as a challenge.
Voldemort’s red eyes bore into mine. With the grace of a snake he walks towards me, stopping a few feet away. I raise my wand and a powerful shield charm erects around us, sealing us in and the others out. My magic feels different now, purer. A few others copy me and soon my half of the hall is filled with protective bubbles surrounding small clusters of people.
“Love cannot save you now, Harry Potter. I have the Elder Wand and nothing can stop me. Not you or Dumbledore or your mudblood mother.” I feel the sting of His words and I raise Draco’s wand in response.
“The wand doesn’t work for you, does it?” Voldemort doesn’t answer. “It’s because you’re not its true master.”
“I killed Severus Snape!” Voldemort roars. “I killed him and I stole the wand and its power from Dumbledore’s tomb! And now I intend to kill you with it!”
“The wand was never Snape’s! You killed the wrong man!” I pause for effect. Voldemort stares at me, fed up. “Draco Malfoy was the one who disarmed Dumbledore that night in the Astronomy Tower, not Snape! The wand answers to him.” The silence is thick. I can feel Draco’s horrified eyes staring at me but I don’t turn to face him. “But I disarmed Draco weeks ago at Malfoy Manor and took this wand,” I raise Draco’s hawthorn wand higher. “So if I’m correct, the Elder Wand is actually mine.”
There isn’t even a pause between my last word and the curse that came rocketing towards me. People scream. The green light of the killing curse is eerie and the lasting echo of the curse lingers in the air. The simple spell falls from my lips with ease and my disarming charm flies forward and meets Voldemort’s curse in a flurry of golden sparks.
The horrified look on Voldemort’s face tells me I’ve won before I see the Elder Wand fly from his hand. Tumbling end over end, the wand soars over the spells and I catch it in my left hand. The Killing Curse, propelled backwards by the force of the Expelliarmus, strikes Voldemort in the chest, right over where his heart should have been. It’s over before anyone can react. Tom Marvolo Riddle. Lord Voldemort, dying a mortal’s death just like his muggle father whom he hated so much.
There’s a commotion as all the Death Eaters try to leave all at once. Some are smart enough to apperate away. Others aren’t so lucky and are captured swiftly by Aurors and Hogwarts staff. Almost all are pleading for mercy and claiming to have been under the Imperious Curse.
I'm suddenly surrounded by people. They scream in my ears and clap me on the back, shoulders, arms or anywhere they can reach. Hermione hugs me tightly, pulling Ron’s arms around me too. There are tears cascading down both their faces. Ginny grabs me next, then Molly, Arthur, Fleur, McGonagall, Cho, Neville, Luna. There are a few yelps of pain and soon there are pale arms pushing Luna away and chapped lips kissing mine.
The kiss is needy and full of pain and emotion. It’s not to comfort or rejoice. It’s a kiss of desperation. There are teeth tugging at my lower lip and another tongue in my mouth. Fingers tug at my hair and clothes and I dig my fingers into thin hips hard enough to leave bruises.
“You were dead. You told me you had to die but you’re not dead. How are you alive?” Draco whispers between kisses. There are salty tears in my mouth and in his. I’m not sure who’s they are.
“I’m alive. I’m very alive,” I whisper back, kissing Draco again. It’s less painful this time but no less emotional. We’re both crying for each other, for all the scared times and the tense moments. We’re trying to convey the love we had just found and try to reassure each other that the worst is finally over.
And then we’re not kissing and we’re holding each other like our lives depend on it. I’m shaking, the weight of the world crashing onto my shoulders. There are muffled sounds in my ears. It’s like I’m listening to everything underwater.
There are more hands touching me. I lift my head from Draco’s shoulder and see Hermione smiling at me sadly. Behind her are Ron, the Weasleys, Neville and Luna. The rest of the crowd had migrated into the Great Hall although a few were still watching me and Draco.
Draco looks up too and smiles a watery smile at Hermione and Ron before burying his face back into my neck.
Ron pats me on the shoulder before wrapping his arm around Hermione’s waist. “I understand,” he said quietly. “The same thing happened to us.” He smiles at Hermione and she leans into his side.
I carefully untangle myself from Draco and hug Ron tightly once more. He hugs me tight as well before passing me on to Hermione. She cries on my shoulder for a moment then gives me a struggling smile. I kiss her on the cheek and reach back to take Draco’s hand.
"Thank you,” I say quietly and I know it’s all I need to say. They catch all the hidden meanings.
I cast a glance a glance over my shoulder as Draco leads me down the corridor. Hermione is talking quietly with Neville and Luna while the Weasleys’ hug each other in grief over Fred. A sharp tug on my hand captures my attention and I turn back to face Draco.
“Just stop thinking for a minute. They’ll be alright in time.”
“I just feel guilty that I’ve put them through all this.”
Draco kisses me quickly. “Stop being the Hero for a while. Let’s celebrate being alive now and tomorrow you can go about doing whatever the Savior of the Wizarding World does.”
I kiss Draco firmly and my mind tells me to stop worrying about everyone else. Right now I just need some alone time with Draco, preferably in a silver and green draped bed in the dungeons.