Harry Potter And The Unexpected Second Life
Author's Note: For once, this adventure is a one-shot (i.e. it doesn't link to the others I've written). It begins partway through the Battle of Hogwarts - only to take on a different course, which in turn takes us readers into an alternative 'What happened next?' Potterverse story.
Please note: This story contains my usual mixture of light and dark themes. It is rated for a mature audience and should only be read by people of the appropriate age and upwards.
Please read and review! Spotted a mistake? Let me know about it!
Disclaimer: JK Rowling owns the rights to the obvious characters. And the remaining characters are of my creation! No money is being made from this story.
Text that is in italics at the start of Chapters 1 and 2 is directly from 'Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows' - mainly to set the initial scenes…
(Blurb: A different ending to the Battle of Hogwarts is followed by a deadly assassination attempt on the Golden Trio. In an alternative timeline, Harry, Ron, and Hermione are forced to go undercover, to complete their education – whilst dark secrets and the ongoing Death Eater menace threaten them all. Harry's new life as a witch certainly won't be dull… Please read and review!)
The Night Before The Dawn
2 May 1998
The castle was unnaturally silent. There were no flashes of light now, no bangs or screams or shouts. The flagstones of the deserted Entrance Hall were stained with blood. Emeralds were still scattered all over the floor along with pieces of marble and splintered wood. Part of the banisters had been blown away…
"Where is everyone?" whispered Hermione.
Ron led the way to the Great Hall. Harry stopped in the doorway.
The house tables were gone and the room was crowded. Several people stood together in small clusters, their arms draped across each other's shoulders. Those that were injured were being treated on a raised platform by Madam Pomfrey and her team of helpers. The nurse herself was applying a large dressing to the blood-soaked flank of Firenze, whilst Professor Trelawney wiped her sweating brow with a torn rag, as she assisted – her dislike of the centaur now forgotten in his moment of need.
The dead were laid out in a row in the centre of the hall. Fred was now surrounded by the Weasley family – George kneeling at his head; Mrs Weasley sobbing as she hugged her lost son, with her husband gently rubbing his hand on her shoulder. As Ron and Hermione hurried over to Ron's family, Harry saw something else that chilled his heart. Nymphadora Tonks was laying about four bodies away from Fred, her eyes closed and her mouth open, as if sleeping.
The nasal-tinged voice managed to break Harry's gaze from Tonks's body. Standing at the opposite end of the Great Hall was Remus Lupin, bearing a cut to his head, as well as sporting scorch marks to his worn tweed jacket and trousers. He rushed over to his wife - then flung himself upon her, wailing.
"Remus…" Harry crouched besides him, and tried to get his dried-out mouth to work. "I'm… I'm so sorry…"
"Wh…? What happened to her, Harry? I…couldn't find her, amongst all the fighting and devastation…"
"I-I don't know! I just got here. Remus… Snape is dead too – killed by Voldemort."
Lupin looked up sharply at Harry, in shock. Then his gaze returned to his wife, and he brushed her now-brown hair, the colour remaining unchanging in her oblivious state. "I just want to see whoever did this, to get their due desserts…" he said slowly, his hand trembling.
"It was Bellatrix Lestrange. She just managed to hit your wife with a lethal spell. Then the crazed witch got away, before I could deal with her." It was Professor Flitwick who spoke. The diminutive Charms teacher left the team seeing to the injured. He took off his spectacles and laid a hand on Lupin's shoulder. "Dora went to find you. I'm sorry. Your son needs you both." Flitwick looked intently at Lupin, then Harry. There was a steely expression there, and Harry felt that beneath his seemly-calm manner, the white-haired, half-goblin teacher was waiting for the moment to let loose his withheld anger upon the Death Eaters and what they had done to Hogwarts, ever since they took control of it a year ago. "For what it's worth, I am very glad that you two are still alive."
Lupin nodded. His face sank upon Tonks's chest, and he shook with his grief. Then he seemed to tense. Harry, unable to tear himself away, looked on in wonder as his former DADA teacher gasped and slowly turned his ear to listen.
"She's NOT dead!" Lupin abruptly yelled, making Harry and Flitwick jump.
"What…? Merlin's mercy be praised…!" Flitwick gasped.
"I can hear her heart…"
"Two nurses here, please – now!" Flitwick cried out. And Harry found himself pushed back as Tonks was seen to. He let loose a sigh of relief, and wiped his damp forehead with his hand. He was finding it hard to breathe normally, and could not bear to look at the other bodies nearby. Did not want to see who else had given up their life for him…
But the sight of something unexpected caught his attention and held him still. Pansy Parkinson was crying over Draco Malfoy, who was lying on a makeshift bed, next to one of the hall windows. His eyes were closed, and bandages were wrapped around his head and one forearm. The pug-faced, dark-haired girl was cradling the young man's face in her hands.
"Wake up, Draco! Please!" she sniffed.
Almost against his will. Harry felt himself drawn towards the two Slytherin pupils. As he drew level, Pansy looked up and glared at him
"How come you're back?" Harry snapped.
"I broke away from Filch and the pupils he was escorting out, Potter. And I looked for Draco… Well, I found him. Then the wall next to us exploded! Draco was hit on the head by the rubble. I brought him here…" Pansy's red-rimmed eyes flashed daggers at him. "You caused this! Why don't you surrender now, you filthy Muggle-lover? Like HE asked you to! Or do you want to see my darling, and others, die? Like your blood-traitor friend over there?" She nodded in the direction of the crowd around Fred's body.
Harry gritted his teeth. "For your information, Pansy, it's your scumbag, murdering Lord, and his loony followers who are killing innocent people… But you only care about your darling, here – don't you? Well, if it hadn't been for me, Ron, and Hermione rescuing him tonight, twice – Malfoy would be dead by now. Think about that!"
He and Pansy were both standing now - only inches between their tense, etched faces. The bigoted girl had no taunt with which to fire back at him. Instead, her hands fumbled as she reached inside her robe pocket. She cursed under her breath.
"No wand, I see…" Harry gave the ghost of a smile. "Filch, or someone else, had the sense to take it from you?"
"Drop dead!" Pansy spat. She turned her back on him, and wiped away her tears – before getting down to rub some more opened ointment besides her onto the cuts on her boyfriend's jaw.
Harry stepped back, and took a deep breath. He cast a glance at Ginny, who was weeping, pressed into a supportive embrace by Hermione.
I should be there for Ginny… I still feel something for her.
But Harry could not stay any longer. He had the crystal flask holding Severus Snape's memories. So, unseen by anyone else, he turned and ran for the Headmaster's office.
On the brow of a small hill on the edge of Hogsmeade, the tall, bald figure that was Lord Voldemort wrapped his dark cloak closer to him, as the night air blew underneath the stars. Before him, the castle lay partly in ruins – fires and smoke issuing from collapsed masonry and jagged fissures in the stone fabric of the school. And now his Death Eaters were retrieving their fallen colleagues from the battlefield – both the dead and wounded.
The battle was not going as smoothly as he had hoped for. The sacrifice of his pawns did not bother him, of course - but they would need to be replaced after tonight, in order to maintain his rule over the wizarding population of the country…
Standing a few paces behind their silent leader were the wild-haired, Goth-like Bellatrix Lestrange – and her sister and brother-in-law, Narcissa and Lucius Malfoy.
Bellatrix glared at the giant snake, Nagini – still in her protective magical sphere close to them, hidden behind the brow of the hill. The dammed creature received more attention from HIM, than she did… Once Potter and his most loyal supporters had been eliminated, she would put it to her lord that they could celebrate by getting to know each other intimately. Get him to forget about his pet for an hour or so…
Her husband, Rodolphus, had gone missing a month ago, whilst acting as a messenger to the Carrows at the school. If he had abandoned the Cause… Well, it would provide her with the excuse to kill him, and prove to her beloved that her devotion to him deserved the reward she had waited so long for…
Bellatrix smiled. The destruction of the school, and the deaths – even those of fellow Death Eaters – made her blood sing with the anticipation of the glorious victory to come. If those fools inside the castle would not bow down to the inevitable, then that was their folly.
She turned to regard Cissy and her husband. She narrowed her eyes. They looked pale, strained, and even…aghast…at the blazing tableau set before them? But neither of them said anything. Their lord was still – the only movement coming from his snake-like nostrils as he stood in silent thought.
Then he turned to face his servants. His thin, high voice reached them.
"Bellatrix, Lucius, Narcissa… We will retreat to the Forbidden Forest, and wait. Take this time to eat, drink, and rest. You will need to keep up your strength, after all."
"I… I cannot rest, my…, my Lord," Mrs Malfoy stuttered. "I want Draco…out of the school! He could be dead!"
Voldemort held up a pale hand, silencing her. "He is now of age to fight as a man, according to our customs. He will fight accordingly for our values – and live or die in the process!"
"You should be proud of what he has achieved here in the last year." Bellatrix smiled at the Malfoys, raising her sharp voice in order to dispel their annoying behaviour before their leader. "Even if Draco somehow fails to survive this battle, he will be honored. We will build statues of all of our noble fighters for the Cause and place them in the school when it is rebuilt…"
Narcissa Malfoy gave her sister a sharp look of disbelief. Before she could speak, Lucius gathered his faltering courage and pointedly intervened. He walked right up to Voldemort.
"My L-Lord… Where is Professor S-Snape?"
Voldemort's mouth twitched. "Do not concern yourself with him, Lucius."
"I… I wish to discuss the school's defences with him. If we can force our way into Hogwarts by stealth…"
Voldemort firmly pushed him aside, almost causing Mr Malfoy to fall down. "Enough!" he hissed lowly. "You cannot discuss strategy with a man who has just died!"
"D-died…!? Snape is…dead?" Lucius gasped, and exchanged a look of horror with his equally-appalled wife.
But their leader did not see this. His attention was focused on the figure he had seen, now striding up the hill towards the group, coming from the direction of Hogsmeade. Four pairs of human eyes, as well as the reptilian slits of the coiled Nagini, turned to take in the long black cloak and red leather mask of the arrival.
The figure stopped and got down on one knee, bowing before Voldemort.
"Rise. You got here at last, then!"
The cloaked newcomer stood up again, but kept the head slightly bowed before the Dark Lord. "I apologise, Master. I was on an assignment – and so did not receive your summons until I had completed my work. I finally tracked down the escaped auror in Manchester, and eliminated him tonight."
The Malfoys frowned and shared another look between them – wondering as to the identity of the one their lord had sent for. The mask seemed to distort the voice of the arrival. The cloak and dark clothes effectively hid the shape of the assassin – and so it was impossible to even tell if the figure was male or female.
Voldemort smiled at the news. "Bravo. But now I have a more important task for you, Tenebrae. I want you to locate Harry Potter in Hogwarts for me. Right now."
The individual addressed as Tenebrae jerked its head up sharply, as if in surprise. Then, bowing to its superior, the newcomer removed a syringe, tucked behind a belt. Using a vial retrieved from a knapsack hidden underneath the dark cloak, Tenebrae proceeded to inject himself, or herself, with the filled syringe…
Back in the Great Hall, Pansy learned her tired head against the wall next to Draco's unmoving form. Elsewhere, in the long room, Madame Pomfrey and her assistants were still busy seeing to their patients. The nurse herself was now speaking to that filthy werewolf teacher from four years ago, and Pansy's nostrils flared as she caught their conversation.
"Your wife will be fine, Remus. Her wounds are gradually recovering. I must say I'm surprised – most people wouldn't have survived what she evidently took…"
"Dora isn't most people, Poppy. She's stronger now, thanks to…" Lupin trailed off, smiling. "Well, thank you for your work!"
So one of the Order of the Phoenix had survived her close brush with death… Pansy wished she had some poison on her, to pour into the drinks of the fighters. Instead, she was doing nothing useful here, and now she was finding it hard in the glow of the candle lights to keep her eyes open…
The unexpected touch of a hand across her mouth shocked her into alertness.
Draco had risen upon his knees, and was crouched next to her. He looked at her strangely, as she tried to speak.
"Who…are you?" He carefully removed his hand.
"It-it's me, Pansy!" she hissed, keeping her voice down. "Are-are you all right, Draco?"
He looked around at the other people in the hall, checking that no one was paying attention to them. Then he returned his gaze to the other Slytherin pupil.
"Sorry… Just wanted to make sure you were a friend."
"Well, I am! I've been nursing you… Are you concussed, Draco?"
"I'm…fine." His grey eyes narrowed. "Where's Potter?"
"He was here! He can't be far away… Why?"
"We need to find him, Pansy. We need to capture Potter, for HIM."
Pansy looked startled. Then a gleeful smile spread across her face.
"Count me in," she declared.
"So now you know. A part of Voldemort has been in me, all this time. And…it means I have to do this. I have to go to him."
At Harry's words, Hermione gave a choked sob – then she flung himself at him, wrapping her arms around his neck. He patted her back. Reluctantly, they let go.
Harry turned to Ron, who looked wan and uncertain of what to do. Then he stepped forward and stiffly patted Harry's shoulders.
"We'll… We'll do what we can to kill Nagini," Ron croaked. "What-whatever happens to you, Snakeface is going to get what's coming for him." He forced a smile. "It was good knowing you, Harry."
Harry managed to lift his lips into a weak smile, in response. He took in the final image of Ron and Hermione, as they stood together. He saw Ron's hand grasp Hermione's, as she wiped away her tears with her free hand.
"It was great knowing you guys, as well." Harry swallowed hard, holding back the butterflies that were rising from his stomach. "Take good care of each other, won't you? For however long you have to."
"We will, Harry." Hermione nodded. She looked ready to stop him from leaving – but Ron was holding her firmly now.
Harry gave a smile that felt hollow – then he turned his back on them, before his nerve failed him. He left his friends behind at the base of the now-stationary staircase in the great stairwell.
On his way out, he spied Oliver Wood and Neville Longbottom carrying the body of Colin Creevey – then he briefly spoke to Neville, so that he know that Nagini had to be killed, in case Ron and Hermione didn't get to do the job themselves. After that, Harry slipped on the Invisibility Cloak and headed out of the building, disappearing into the pre-dawn darkness.
But Harry hadn't noticed the hidden eyes that had been carefully watching him, in the Entrance Hall.
The pupil had been ascending the staircase from the kitchens, bringing up supplies for the makeshift medics, when she heard Harry's conversation with Neville. Frowning, and putting down her tray, she hurried outside, and soon found Harry's trail.
The other pupils who had spying on Harry only emerged from the cover of the alcove statue once the observant girl had passed through the main doors.
"She's going after Potter!"
"Then we need to get rid of her, Pansy." Draco Malfoy bore a dark expression on his wan face. Potter needs to do as he was told, and go to the Forbidden Forest. Now!"
"What are you two doing?"
The two Slytherins spun round, to see Anthony Goldstein, of Ravenclaw house, standing behind them. Draco smiled at Pansy, and then repeatedly flicked his eyes from her to Anthony and back again. The confused look on Pansy's face cleared and she marched up to the Ravenclaw pupil, who was levelling his wand at her.
"Oh, come now… Tony, isn't it?" Pansy cooed. "There's no need to be alarmed. Draco just needed some air to clear his head, after his injury…"
Had he been less exhausted, Anthony might have reacted in time. As it was, he was surprised at the speed that Draco seized him from behind, clamping one hand over his mouth. The other hand grabbed Anthony's head and gave it a sudden, sharp jerk.
With a 'snap', Anthony's eyes bulged open. They remained fixed, as he collapsed to the floor, dead.
Pansy sucked in her breath, startled at the unexpected, sudden brutality of her boyfriend.
"Quick! Grab his wand, and help me dump him outside. Then we can find Potter by following that witch who's gone after him!" Draco barked.
Swallowing, Pansy complied. She scolded herself for her momentarily weakness. They were at war, after all. Anthony was foolish enough to have fought for the wrong side, and now he was one less opponent to worry about…
Still clad in the Invisibility Cloak, Harry passed the fallen body of an enemy giant, reaching the brow of the small hill overlooking the Whomping Willow. He forced his feet to move on; one after the other, knowing that it was to be the last journey he would take alive…
He was so absorbed in his morbid thoughts, his eyes angled down, that he wasn't aware of being followed. Until the voice called out.
"Don't do it, Harry! If you let him win, we might as well all die, anyway!"
Harry halted, taken by surprise. Slowly, he turned round. He removed the cloak.
Luna Lovegood's long, dirty blonde hair blew in the faint breeze. In the light cast by her wand, she seemed ethereal – like a ghost. And he saw her wide silver-grey eyes gazing back at him. Despite her tired, haunted look, she struck him as actually pretty. A part of him in his turmoil was grateful to see another friend. He would be able to say goodbye to her, before he faced his death…
He hesitated. Luna looked as though she was on the verge of tears. He had never seen her so upset before. Luna was possibly the calmest, most serene person he'd ever known.
"How…? How did you find me, Luna?" he managed to croak.
"I heard you and Neville, in the Entrance Hall. But your cloak doesn't go as far as covering the back of your shoes. So, I was able to find you, once I'd caught up. But intuition told me where you were going." Luna's light, airy voice now lost some of its usual composure. "Harry… Do not let yourself be manipulated into this by that awful man. If you die, we'll all be heartbroken…"
"Why does it all have to hinge on me!?" Harry snapped. "That stupid Prophecy that caused Voldemort to hunt down my parents and kill them… The rule that he has to kill me, or me kill him, because I'm his marked equal." He shook his head, and shuffled his feet. "I'm… I'm sorry, Luna. I'm not angry at you…"
"I know." She gave him a small smile and stepped forward. Time seemed to replay itself for Harry, as she gently took his hand. For a brief moment, the two of them were sent back in time, in Harry's memory, to a point two years earlier – when Luna had helped to lift some of his pain at losing Sirius. "I wish you could have confided in us more, Harry. You've been in torment for too long," she added.
"Yes…," he admitted - then he took a breath to steady himself. "But it's no use worrying about me, now. You all need to fight on against Voldemort and the Death Eaters. Without me. I need to die," he blurted.
Luna's eyes widened even further. "Why, Harry?" she asked softly.
"Because…" He sighed. There was no harm in telling her now. He now wished he had told Neville and Luna – even Ginny – about the Horcruxes. A team of six – not three – witches and wizards might have worked better in their lengthy hunt for the portions of Voldemort's soul. Luna would not have been kidnapped by the Death Eaters, then. And her father would not have been used as a lever against him. Maybe.
"There's a part of Voldemort that's been embedded in me. Ever since I was a baby, Luna. I've just found out. For that monster to die, all of him needs to be destroyed!"
"Oh…" Luna didn't remove her hand. Harry was grateful for that. "So you're hoping that…Voldemort…, by killing you, will also eliminate this part of himself. Then spare everyone else?"
"Yes. Then he'll drop his guard – and you, and all the others on our side, can take him and his giant snake out…"
"Hmm…" Luna hummed. "I wouldn't think that any of us would want to date Voldemort or an overgrown wiggly serpent. Not many restaurants would welcome us."
For a moment, Harry wasn't sure how to react. Then, despite himself, he began to choke with laughter at the image Luna had conjured up with her words. He saw her smile, and he held her hand firmly, momentarily forgetting the shadows that had been filling his mind with dread.
"Tha-that's…not…what I meant!" Harry soon became sober again.
"I know." Luna's expression turned serious. "If you really have to face Voldemort…, would it help for me to come with you?"
Harry's mouth hung open. "Luna… Don't…. He ordered Cedric Diggory's death – just because he was with me when I was portkeyed out of that maze…"
"Well. The alternative is that we return to Hogwarts and force our enemy to come to us…"
"No! He'll kill us all! He, and the sheep he calls his followers… They'll slaughter everyone!" Harry protested.
"I'm not so sure, Harry. I think the dawn will bring some allies to us. Allies you may have forgotten about…" Luna gently tugged on his hand. "Please come back, Harry. Make your rules as to how this battle runs – don't play by Voldemort's."
Indecision slowly sank into Harry's thoughts. Could there really be another way? Have Nagini and Voldemort killed first – then get Ron or Hermione to put him out of his misery, before the darkness tried to break out of him…?
Startled by the sharp voice, Harry and Luna tried to dodge aside. Luna gave an 'Eek!" as her arm was hit - and she was sent flying to one side. Then, as Harry spun round to bear his wand upon the blond-haired youth who was now diving aside behind a bush, he was jumped upon by Pansy Parkinson. Tumbling to the ground, Harry's wand fell out of his grasp. Quickly, he tried to retrieve it…
He yelled as the cutting spell slashed across his shoulder blade, delaying him. Before he knew it, Pansy had seized his wand – and she and Draco Malfoy were covering him and Luna. Both the prisoners were now flat on the ground, but face-up and conscious, propped on their elbows. Luna's wand was nowhere to be seen.
"What the hell…?" Harry spat at the two Slytherin pupils.
"About to turn back, were you, Potter?" Draco was not sneering for once – but his expression was still hard. "Tough – you're going to surrender to the Master."
"The…Master?" Harry repeated.
"He means the Dark Lord, of course – stupid." Pansy leered at Harry and Luna. "Both of you are coming with us. If you don't…" Her eyes gleamed in the light of her lit wand. "Well. Loony here will suffer."
A lump formed in Harry's throat. He glanced across at Luna. She looked frightened – but she was also still composed enough to stay focused on their captors.
"Between me, Ron, and Hermione, we've twice saved your life tonight, Malfoy!" Harry declared as evenly as possible. "And you are still stupid enough to want to be Voldemort's golden boy?"
"Shut up! On your feet – both of you." Draco gestured with his wand for them to rise.
"I should have let you die, along with Crabbe." Harry gritted his teeth, as he pulled Luna up. "Don't you care about what we did for you?"
There was no flicker of hesitation on the other boy's face. "Crabbe will be buried, with honours, later. Now, move it! We have an appointment to keep." He forced Harry to walk ahead of him, at wand point.
"One moment, Draco…" Pansy walked up to Luna – and then abruptly slammed her fist into the younger girl's stomach, forcing her mouth open in both shock and pain. The Ravenclaw witch gasped for breath.
"Luna…!" Harry halted, dumbfounded by the sickening act of brutality he had just witnessed.
"That's for causing Professor Flitwick to put me in detention last week, you bitch!" Pansy snarled. "Don't you ever question my Prefect orders again!"
Luna staggered. Then she collapsed upon the ground, breathing heavily.
"Get up, Loony. Or I will hit you again – and levitate you with us!" There was a look of sheer malice on Pansy's unpleasant face.
"You evil…" Without thinking, Harry leapt out at Parkinson. Grabbing her, he spun her round so that he held her as a shield against Draco's attack. Pansy yelled as the stunning spell hit her. Harry still held onto her, though. Then, Luna forced herself to move, and she grabbed Harry's wand, as Pansy dropped it.
"Ex…pelliarmus!" she panted.
Draco gave a cry as Anthony Goldstein's stolen wand was sent spinning from his hand. It sailed through the air towards the Whomping Willow. He turned and ran for it.
Harry automatically ran after his hated school nemesis. As Draco snatched up his wand, Harry crashed into him – and the two young men tumbled down the slope of the hill, heading out of control towards the dangerous tree. As they rolled over together, their hands fighting for control of Anthony's wand, it fired off a spell and struck the tree. Immediately, it creaked into animated life. One of its gnarled branches rose up and swung to a point above the two wizards, as they rolled to a halt against the bark of the huge willow.
Harry and Draco both saw the danger, as they scrambled back up upon their feet, trying to gather their breaths.
Shoving Draco back, Harry dived aside. The branch slammed into the ground – just missing its targets. The earth beneath them shook with the impact, and both of them lost their footing again.
But Draco still had control of the wand, and he seemed hell-bent on getting the better of Harry. He screamed his frustration at the darker-haired wizard, as the two of them ducked and dodged the swinging branches of the angry tree – a task made more difficult in the poor light. Draco fired petrification spells at the Whomping Willow. All that achieved was to make it more furious.
Harry's heart was pounding madly. He could hear Luna yelling his name – and, twisting and turning to avoid the ongoing onslaught from the massive tree, he sprinted towards her voice, a beacon in the madness of the night…
"No! Petrificus!" Draco bellowed.
"Aagh!" Harry cried out as his lower leg was struck, and he fell – sprayed out, arms first – upon the hill slope. Groaning at his rough landing, he forced himself to turn over, to face Malfoy once more.
The blond-haired bully dodged another slam down from the Willow, and then ran over to Harry, wiping dirt from his face. His lips broke out into a cruel, gloating smile. "Now you are really going to suffer, Potter!"
"Watch out!" Harry bellowed at him.
Draco only caught a glimpse of the largest branch swinging sideways towards him. Then he screamed, as the thick wood slammed into his tall body with the impact of a speeding Muggle car. His black school robe fluttered as he flew through the air and crashed into the nearest section of the school's enclosure wall. Satisfied that it had dealt with its agitators, the Whomping Willow creaked back to its usual resting position, and this time stayed still.
"Oh… No…!" Harry gasped, dumbfounded.
Luna half-ran down towards him, one hand rubbing her sore stomach.
"Luna… Are you?"
"I'll be fine, Harry. Thank goodness the tree didn't hit you!" Luna used her retrieved wand to unfreeze Harry's paralysed leg.
"Thanks… Now for Malfoy…" Harry breathed, nodding to the unmoving Slytherin boy.
The two of them carefully approached Draco. As they crouched down next to him, Harry was distracted by Luna's light, airy voice. She was frowning at the wand that she had snatched up from the Slytherin pupil.
"Draco must have had his wand confiscated."
"Yeah." Harry nodded. "I've won it off him at Malfoy Manor, when we clashed."
"Oh. I meant his replacement wand, Harry."
"This wand is Anthony Goldstein's… Draco and Pansy must have ambushed him," Luna told Harry, giving him a sad look. Then she held out a third wand – Draco's original wand, which Harry had been armed with when he came back to Hogwarts. "Pansy won't be needing this now."
"Thanks, Luna." He smiled at her, taking the wand back.
She smiled back. "Thank you for coming to my defence, when Pansy hit me, Harry."
The two friends focused their attention on Draco Malfoy, as they turned him over. Luna used her wand to create some light to see by.
Harry flinched. For a moment, Draco's eyes looked as if they were totally black…
"What is it, Harry?"
He glanced back at her, not sure what to say. When he looked down again at the injured wizard before him, the hated, arrogant bully of his school days had disappeared. Instead, there was now only a broken young man with multiple internal wounds.
"Wh…? Where am…? What…happened…!?" He coughed up blood, staining his dark school clothes. Draco looked bewildered as he saw the lightening, pre-dawn sky above him. "Why are we…at the Willow?"
"Malfoy… You stupid, concussed git…" Harry didn't know much about first aid, but he pulled the young man's shirt up and saw the blood and damage underneath… "Luna – he's broken his ribs! And he's bleeding – badly!" Harry fought to keep calm. He didn't feel he was succeeding.
"Ooh!" Luna joined Harry into trying whatever they could to heal the casualty before them. But now Draco was losing conscious. And there were tears on his face.
"No! Mother… Father… I'm sorry! I don't want to follow HIM anymore…" His hand weakly grabbed Harry's cuff. "I'm sorry…for what I've done…to you, Ha-Harry…"
The hand went limp. It slipped off Harry's jacket. Harry himself froze, suddenly unable to speak. The world started to swim around him.
He didn't know how long he was dazed. A minute maybe. Luna's gentle voice eventually reached him.
"I'm sorry, Harry… Draco's gone. I've closed his eyes." She paused. "Here's your cloak back."
"Why…? Why did and Pansy have to hurt you?" he heard himself say. "The arrogant prat got himself killed by his own actions…"
"I know." Luna squeezed his hand - then looked down at the dead pupil before them. "His poor parents…"
"I'd better carry Draco. They need to see him…" Tucking his wand in his belt, he gave her a meaningful look.
"Luna… Please… Don't stop me, this time. I hesitated in my journey – and now yet another life has been lost."
She bowed her head, acknowledging his point.
Harry patted her shoulders - and then winced at the red handprints he was leaving on her purple jumper. "Thanks for being a good friend, Luna. I… I just wish I'd got to know you better."
She smiled sadly. "Likewise, Harry. If… If you are really not coming back, I hope you will be happy with your close ones. Like your parents and your godfather. Besides, we'll all see you again, you know. Sooner or later – when it's our turn to leave our lives behind. We can get to know each other as much as we like, then – and you can introduce me to Sirius and your parents." Luna timidly raised her hand. "I better see to Pansy."
Harry nodded, touched by her words. He raised his hand to mirror Luna's and watched as she walked backwards. He couldn't say anymore – and he turned round. Wiping aside his tears, he bent down to pick up Draco Malfoy's body…
A couple of minutes later, his slow, laboured walk had brought him into the midst of the silent Forbidden Forest. Draco's death had brought him no joy, and his still-warm body made him shudder.
Luna said 'Your close ones'! My parents… Sirius… The Hallow we've not found – the Resurrection Stone…! Could it be…? Could it resurrect Draco?
'I open at the close'! Stupid, stupid cryptic message of Dumbledore's! He meant 'I open at the end of one's life!
Half-dropping Draco's body in his haste, Harry pulled out at the pouch around his neck, and got out the Snitch…
He pressed the golden metal to his lips and whispered, "I am about to die."
"I thought he would come," said Voldemort, eyeing the flames of the fire burning before him, in the middle of the forest clearing where the Death Eaters were gathered. "But I was mistaken."
"You weren't," Harry declared, mustering a note of defiance in his loud voice. Ignoring the collective gasp and stirring of the Death Eaters, mentally blocking out the protests of the captured Hagrid, Harry stepped forward, bearing the body of Draco in his arms.
Mrs Malfoy screamed.
She shot to her feet and bolted over to Harry – her cloak acting as a shield that blocked Harry from the gaze of the Dark Lord. "Draco! Draco!"
A moment later, Lucius Malfoy hurried to join his tearful wife's side. He snatched his son from Harry's arms and laid him down on the spot. Grabbing Narcissa's wand from its usual pocket, he cast the light spell and saw the damage Draco had taken.
"Nox…" Mr Malfoy slowly turned his now even-paler face to Harry, his shocked expression wide and questioning.
Harry hesitated. His parents and Sirius had told him, just minutes earlier, that the Resurrection Stone could not bring the dead back to life – even the recently departed…
"I'm sorry… The Whomping Willow hi-hit him," he stammered. "Draco tried to make sure that I came here. He…he was acting crazy! Like…like he wasn't exactly himself."
At Harry's words, Mrs Malfoy gasped and brought her face up sharply from her son's chest. She and her husband gave each other a long, questioning look that Harry couldn't interpret.
"You filthy blood-traitor!" Bellatrix Lestrange ran over to the Malfoys and levelled her wand at Harry. She looked ready to cut him down, there and then – but, remembering that her lord wanted to carry out that task himself, she managed to hold herself with an effort. "You've killed my favorite nephew!" she screeched at him, fury twisting her already-unpleasant features.
"No!" he protested. "He brought about his own fate!"
"You're going to be dead soon yourself, Potter-boy," Bellatrix spat, as though she hadn't heard him. "You'll join my worthless niece in death. Then that Mudblood Granger, and all those close to you… You will all suffer…"
"Tonks is still alive!" Harry snapped back, eager to spite her for what she did to Sirius. "And I hope she lives to see you drop dead – you wretched excuse for a human being!"
Bellatrix blinked in surprise, startled by what she had just heard. The other Death Eaters also seemed taken aback by Harry's defiance, in spite of him standing before them, at their mercy.
But now Voldemort stood up. "Harry Potter…" the thin voice called out. "So good of you to face me, instead of us having to kill everyone shielding you…"
"Yeah…" In spite of his pounding heart, and his fear, Harry could not resist the opportunity. His lips trembled. "Because if our situations were reversed, you'll be willing to lay down your life to save your lapdog followers, wouldn't you!?"
Despite the situation, the captive Hagrid managed to chuckle at that one. The Death Eaters, meanwhile, were shocked at Harry's words. And their leader looked at though he had just been slapped around the face.
"Enough!" he roared. Voldemort strode towards his intended target. "Bellatrix, Lucius, Narcissa – get out of my way!"
"My Lord! Draco is…dead!" Mr Malfoy protested. His wife gave her leader a look of simmering rage at his insensitivity. Bellatrix, though, quickly moved aside for her beloved master.
"I do not care! I want my marked equal to die!" Voldemort roughly shoved Lucius aside. The Elder Wand, held in the pale hand, was aimed at Harry – who nervously took several steps back…
There was a flash of green light from the Elder Wand, and the world vanished from Harry's vision…