Love is everything it's cracked up to be. That's why people are so cynical about it. It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for.
"Still can't believe we're taking orders from a fucking pup," says Greyback for the fourth time that night.
"Shut the fuck up, Greyback," Draco says, pulling himself over the sheer rock face.
"I'll rip open your goddamn neck, whelp."
"You'll watch your fucking tongue, dog," Avery interjects. "Unless you'd like to make your excuses to the Dark Lord."
Draco straightens against the howling wind off the sea. The mouth of the cave looms down over them, dark and terrible, and their black hooded cloaks flutter and hiss in protest. Draco casts a nonverbal lumos and holds his hand, now glowing with brilliant golden light. It seems to barely illuminate a foot into the oppressive darkness of the cave.
Avery moves next to him. "Is this it?" With his hood up, Draco can only just make out the features of his face – a scruffy beard that's a bit more salt than pepper, crow's feet, a Roman nose, sharp eyes.
"Don't see how it can't be," Draco returns. "No mistaking a giant cave in a rock in the middle of the sea."
"We're being watched," Bartemius says suddenly.
"I know," Draco says. "I saw them from the shore."
Bartemius turns and glowers at him. "And you didn't think of pointing it out?"
"We're being watched?" Avery repeats.
Greyback's nostrils flare and he inhales deeply. A moment later, his lips pull back from his teeth and he growls low in the back of his throat.
"Keep your fucking voices down," Draco snaps. "We can still have the upper hand if they think we're unsuspecting."
"Who is it?" Avery asks.
"Likely some of the Order. I'm sure it's reformed by now."
"What are your orders, Malfoy?" Greyback asks, voice low and snarling.
"My orders are to fucking be quiet and follow my lead," Draco answers. He gives his hand a shake, dispelling the lumos, and moves forward over the uneven stone, through the gale and ocean spray, toward the mouth of the cave. The others fall into step behind him.
He knows that they're perched behind a large boulder next to the entrance of the cave, likely thinking they can ambush them. He knows that there are four of them, and that they haven't been here long. Draco sees the spider's web of possibilities radiating like a map in his head, and when he's decided on the best course of action, he stops just sort of the radius they would need to attack and calls—
"Congratulations! That was very nearly a well-executed plan."
Then he hurls an explosion hex at the boulder.
The sound is tremendous. Shards of stone go flying in all directions, and Bartemius is quick to throw up a shield that catches several before they have a chance to land on anyone in their party.
There's a force of magic that comes roaring out of the dust and debris and the battle is on.
It is a flurry of shouts and energy and sound. There are four of the Order, though in the darkness Draco can't quite make out who. Spells go flying, and Draco burns with the heat of the fight, slinging curses and shields and counterspells.
One of them deftly dodges Draco's slashing hex and fires off an incarcerous, which comes flying at Draco like a silvery web, but Draco has his hand on his panic button and he uses it to warp out of the way, which takes him into the mouth of the cave. He hears footsteps behind him, and Draco takes off in a run, down and down and down, into what looks like an underground lake.
"Aspernari!" The spell rebounds off a sheer layer of magic. They've come to a stop by the edge of a vast, underground late. Draco stops at the edge of the water and whirls. "I hope you weren't expecting to surprise me!"
His assailant stops, caught under a thick shadow, face obscured.
Silence passes, deep and dreadful. Harry steps forward. He seems taller, darker, more dangerous.
"Savage is a good look on you."
"Can't say Death Eater is a good one on you," Harry returns. His hand is wringing around his wand.
"Well, I'm not a big fan of the silly silver masks or the tattoo, but one copes as one must."
Harry laughs once, then grimaces, as though laughing – or rather, the reminder that Draco can make him laugh – is painful. He grips his wand a bit tighter.
"I'd ask what brings you here," Draco says, "but I make a point of never asking questions I know the answer to. Scrambling to get to the Horcruxes, are we? That little ambush of yours was obviously last minute."
"We were a bit underprepared," Harry admits, moving forward in slow, uncertain steps. "It would be a lot easier if you would help."
"Doubtlessly. Apart from one rather enormous fuck-up, I do tend to be the smartest person in every room."
"Help us, then," Harry says.
Draco raises an eyebrow. "You do know how the Imperius curse works, right? You were actually paying attention in Defense Against the Dark Arts?"
"I was," Harry says. "And I saw you break it."
"I hate to be the bearer of bad news—"
"I know you can do it again."
Draco sets his face. "Not going to happen."
Even in the darkness, Harry's too-green eyes seem to burn. Draco is suddenly full of memories of those eyes smiling at him, staring at him as Draco studied, devouring him at the Yule Ball. Something prickles at the back of Draco's neck.
Harry lowers his wand and spreads his arms. "Kill me, then."
Draco could. He probably should. Harry is his enemy. He keeps his wand hand out, fingers splayed.
"Kill me," Harry says again, with more volume.
"Don't be so dramatic," Draco deflects, and he should kill him, one quick Avada Kedavra, it would be over just like that. The prickling at the back of Draco's neck gets stronger. It feels an awful lot like the pain Draco felt the first time he was put under the Imperius, at the front of the classroom.
"You can't," Harry says. "You can't. A part of you is still fighting. Draco, you are stronger than this curse! You always have been!"
"That is sentimental nonsense." But Draco is still not killing him, and the pain is still there.
"I had visions of you," Harry says, and his voice is suddenly thick with emotion. "Every night. I saw everything those – those monsters had to do to break you. All the shit they had to put you through just to bring down the walls. That would have killed anyone else, and they had to do it just to control you. That's how strong you are, that's how strong you can be again."
Harry's voice is desperate now. He's close. When had he gotten so close? Draco flexes his fingers and backs away in time until water laps at the heel of his boot.
Kill him. Draco should kill him. Draco should kill him.
But there is not nothing. There is something. It is small and it is fragile but it is something and it is getting stronger the longer he stares at Harry and—
There's a pinprick on his neck and a familiar pain suddenly floods Draco's body. He grits his teeth and makes a strangled sound, doubling forward. That unbearable liquid fire burns its way across his skin and Draco is undone. With one hand he grips the collar around his neck.
There's a sudden thunderous crash from the mouth of the cave. Dust and stone rain down and it's loud enough to distract Draco from the pain and Harry from Draco, loud enough to let the curse reassert. Avery and Greyback come barrelling inside like a force of nature. Draco spins on one foot and kicks a rock into the water.
"Greyback!" Draco calls, and he holds out one arm. Greyback shoves past Potter just as the black surfaces of the lake shudders and ripples and the dark shadows begin moving out.
Harry staggers away from the edge of the water as the Inferius come shambling from the depths.
Greyback grabs Draco around the waist and, with one tremendous leap, bounds nearly twenty yards in the air and three times as far, landing on the small island in the middle of the water.
"Make it fast, pup," Greyback snarls, and Draco quickly regains his footing. He's still dizzy with pain from the sudden jolt of venom but he pushes it aside and dives for the basin of water.
"Are they dead?" he asks.
"One of 'em nearly," Greyback answers shortly. "And I think Avery's taking care of the boy…"
Draco stills and looks back over his shoulder. Harry and Avery are duelling on the other side of the water as the Inferi shamble up from the depths of the water and Draco has to go back he has to go back Harry is in danger he needs to—
"Hnngghhha–!" Draco braces both hands on the edge of the large bowl full of potion that covers the Horcrux, God, the pain is unbearable, he lifts a hand to the collar around his neck and stop it stop it stop it—
"Hurry the fuck up," Greyback snarls and with a concentrated force of will that can only be described as herculean, Draco pushes the pain aside. He shoves up his sleeve and puts his finger to his Dark Mark.
"Magic of thy maker," Draco says through his teeth, and the Dark Mark begins to glow, "will of thy master, bend and break and be unmade."
There's a crack of magic. Draco pushes a hand into the potion and snatches the treasure inside.
"Get me out of here," Draco says, and Greyback grabs him around the waist again.