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Chapter One Hundred and Fifty-Three—Broken Bonds
Harry had been in pain, during this battle and before that, in his cupboard and from arguments with Draco and Severus and Sirius, and Ron and Hermione. From Dumbledore's betrayal. From the Chamber of Secrets. From knowing that he had killed someone when he was eleven years old.
But nothing like this.
Every cell of his body seemed lit and blazing with white light, and agony. Harry tried to draw his breath to scream, and couldn't. It was as if he didn't have a voice anymore. The end of his broken bond with Dash burned through him, and he wondered absently if he would actually forget what it was like to speak from this.
It was memory that gave him strength to pull himself back together from the drifting pieces. There was no other strength in him, nothing except the remembrance that Dash had done this for a reason, and that reason was defeating Voldemort and getting the Horcrux out of his head.
It had to be—
It had to be done.
Harry stumbled, turning around, and fell to his knees. The mindscape around him had turned to a vast, silent hall that he imagined was sort of what the Great Hall at Hogwarts would be like without people or the enchantment on the ceiling or light. He forced himself forwards, and there was the Horcrux link there. Harry reached out and imagined Dash's venom pouring from his hands onto it.
He wondered for a second if he would still have access to Dash's venom given their broken bond, and the flood beneath him twitched and grew fainter.
What you believe is what is real here.
That was something Severus had said about battle Legilimency, and Harry was determined to remember it. He forced the pain out of his mind, and continued pouring the venom.
You would succeed faster with our help.
Harry turned his head, or made the motion that was the analogue of that in the mindscape—honestly, it was just better to act as if the mindscape was real life, he thought—and found the Elder Wand hovering beside him. He managed to clear his throat and find words after all. "Why didn't you offer help before?"
You were not desperate enough to accept it before.
Harry thought about arguing, but the sunset of pain his head said that he could not. He didn't even know if Dash was still alive. He didn't know it instinctively, the way he once would have, because their bond was gone—
Harry shook off the temptation to fall back into that maelstrom of agony, and gripped the Elder Wand. How can you help me destroy the Horcrux link faster when nothing I've tried so far has worked?
If you can imagine and thus create what's real here, then you can imagine that you are capable of casting a spell that will devastate the Horcrux link.
Fiendfyre. Harry nodded. He didn't know that he could have cast it in the real world, but this wasn't the real world. This was the world inside his mind, where their bond had been severed—and the Horcrux link still existed.
The Elder Wand floated into his hand. Harry felt the Cloak settle heavily onto his shoulders, but he didn't bother to look at it, or glance around for the Stone. His gaze was fixed on that immovable rope in front of him.
He lifted the wand and spoke the incantation.
For a moment, there was thrumming magic filling him so thickly that Harry was surprised Voldemort didn't turn from his battle with Dash to find out what he was doing. But he shivered and kept his gaze on the rope, and then fire leaped out of his wand, spreading in front of him, and darkly clawing at the air.
There were jaguars there, and dragons, and phoenixes, and basilisks. Harry caught his breath, but felt the warning pulse from the Elder Wand, and kept casting instead of turning to look at Dash or break down sobbing the way he desperately wanted to.
The fire began to eat into the rope.
And then Voldemort's shriek filled Harry's mindscape, echoing from distances that it was hard for Harry to even imagine, and Harry was smiling despite himself as he turned around to look at the battle, finally.
Lord Voldemort's world was one with the pain, and he did not understand how he had been pulled away from his connection with Potter. One moment he was wound in and around the child's soul, binding with it, becoming him to the extent that someone would have had to kill him to be rid of Lord Voldemort.
And the next moment, he simply—was not.
He was rolling around air, wrapped around the basilisk if he was wrapped around anyone, and the venom and the strength were crushing him to the point that Lord Voldemort found himself fighting for his very life. His very existence. He had had Horcruxes, and they were gone. He had had a hold on the Potter child, and it was gone.
He could feel the venom shredding him, bit by bit. He knew that he was dead if he did not get free of the basilisk
But his very terror made him fight the harder, and he knew that he had injured the bond between the basilisk and Potter. He was pulling more and more steadily away when more pain struck him, coming from an unexpected direction.
His soul, or whatever was left of it.
Lord Voldemort shrieked, but the basilisk did not let go of him. Lord Voldemort believed that he could see through the basilisk's scales, believed it fluidly and fervently, the way he had believed he was the Heir of Slytherin after learning of his heritage, and the great body around him did go partially clear, like frosted glass, and he could look towards Potter.
Potter held a stick of pure light in his hand, and fire poured away from him to encompass the Horcrux link between their souls. There was so much color in that fire that it nearly tore Lord Voldemort's eyes from the stick. But what Potter held was indeed a wand, and one of extraordinary power.
How could Potter believe that much in his wand, here, without the bond with his basilisk to back him up?
The basilisk bit and crushed him again, and Lord Voldemort's fear welled up. He would lose—was about to lose—every chance to survive, and make his enemies pay, if he lost his control now. He had to dominate and possess the basilisk, since he had been forced out of the Potter boy's body.
He turned and drew upon his own venom. He was the one who had enhanced Nagini's venom, before her untimely death. He was the one who knew what poison should down a basilisk. And he spread it out in flickering, cold tendrils through the beast's body, dragging and pulling on the soul that had once been his ancestor's.
Lord Voldemort began to laugh so wildly that he nearly choked. He reached out and tapped that soul, that soul of Salazar Slytherin that had once had a piece placed within the Potter child's body.
The soul shivered and responded to him. It responded to him! Lord Voldemort had the blood of Slytherin. He had once borne a piece of the child's soul. He was in control here, and he would make the basilisk crawl before him as a worm when he wore its body.
Right after he had killed Potter.
The basilisk was trying to resist him, but it might as well have tried to resist its own blood. Lord Voldemort was master here. He reached and joined himself with the soul beating like a pulse under the surface of the scales. He could already feel those coils becoming his, himself getting used to the weight that he would place on the earth as he slithered over it.
Perhaps this had been his destiny, after all. The modified resurrection ritual where he had taken a piece of Potter's soul had granted him a body that was serpentine in many ways. Perhaps coming to a snake's body was only the natural end result of that, especially since so many serpents were so much stronger and more commanding than most humans.
The basilisk reached out then and—did something. Lord Voldemort did not understand what it was doing. How could it be reaching out to Potter, when he had felt the bond break himself?
But something was moving and twisting in the mindscape between Potter and the beast, something he did not grasp but disliked. Lord Voldemort wound himself tighter and tighter, a constrictor of his own power now, determined to make his new servant obey him and forsake Potter.
Harry could feel his eyes watering fiercely. It seemed that while the Elder Wand and maybe the other Deathly Hallows were mostly powering the Fiendfyre, he had to do his own share, too, and the flames were eating directly from his magic.
But it was working. Harry could feel the connection between him and Voldemort lessening, lessening, and the shard of Voldemort's soul that still clung to his burning steadily away.
That was the Elder Wand's voice, for all that Harry, hearing it in his inner mind for a moment, wished it was Dash. And then he realized that there was a second voice, humming around it, speaking to him.
Reach out to me.
It meant turning away from the Fiendfyre, maybe abandoning the chance to sever the Horcrux link between him and Voldemort, but Harry frankly didn't care. He would have done anything for Dash. He reached out and caught the faint filament of soul wavering towards him even as he spun around.
An apparition surged towards him. One part of it was Dash, his eyes covered with his eyelids still and his head turning blindly back and forth as if fighting a net. The other part was an elongated nightmare of Voldemort's face, his teeth grown into fangs and his pale skin into blazing scales. His mouth was aimed directly at Harry, large enough to clamp down on his mindscape-body and swallow him whole.
Rather than backing away, Harry reached out and caught the flickering thread of Dash's soul and wrapped it around him like a shield of spidersilk, holding it there and closing his eyes as Voldemort's mouth started to descend on him.
And then he realized why the connection was happening in spite of the fact that he and Dash were no longer bonded.
Dash had interacted with the Deathly Hallows before, too. They sent up a clashing wave of light all around Harry, and Dash's spirit or soul passed through it and huddled next to him, next to the Resurrection Stone, over Harry's heart.
Voldemort's soul hit the wall of protection raised by the Hallows—
Harry heard the shrieking, but he didn't know exactly what it meant, and he didn't care. He clung to the remnants of Dash around him, the faint echo of their bond, and only paid attention a few minutes later when he heard the Elder Wand clanging annoyingly in his head, like an alarm bell.
Destroy the Horcrux link! We have the chance to destroy Voldemort completely if you do that!
Harry spun around and poured his magic into the Fiendfyre again. He saw the Horcrux rope, as he still thought of it, crisping and burning in front of him, and then a wisp of darkness tried to get in between him and it. Harry stared straight through it, the Elder Wand murmuring to him that he must not blink, and then a golden wolf raised its head from the Fiendfyre conflagration and bit through the dark wisp casually.
There was an almighty ache from his scar for a second, something that sent Harry to his knees and made him cling harder to Dash.
And then, the pain was gone.
Harry found himself kneeling on what seemed to be a marble floor, although he knew it was just another part of his mindscape that he might not have pictured this way originally. He blinked and cleared his hair from his eyes with trembling fingers, then sat back and found himself staring around a space that seemed strangely empty.
Of course, if he was right, the Horcrux was gone, and so was every trace of the connection that had once bound him to Voldemort. The Deathly Hallows were a quiet thrum at his side, as if, since they had used so much magic to counteract Voldemort, they had nothing left. And his bond with Dash had been severed. Dash couldn't be in his head anymore.
Harry closed his eyes and reached out to talk to the Elder Wand. He had to speak to someone to confirm what he suspected. It wouldn't be something he wanted to use just his own understanding of. Is Voldemort gone?
The Wand's voice sounded more distant than it had, confirming Harry's impression that its magic was almost spent. Yes. He risked everything on that attack. He wasn't tethered to anything but you and the basilisk. The basilisk managed to get inside our protection, and that was the end of Voldemort's link with him. And you broke the Horcrux connection.
Harry nodded slowly, wishing his brain didn't feel so empty, wishing more than anything that the bond still filled it. Why did Dash sever the bond?
Yes, poisoning himself did that. I wondered if you were clever enough to notice. It's good that you did. I would hate to think that we have a fool for a Master.
Harry wanted to argue about that, but he also thought the Wand was trying to distract him, so he ignored the words. Why did Dash sever the bond?
The Wand was quiet. Instead, a gleaming grey point of light that Harry supposed must be the Resurrection Stone floated up in front of him. He wondered for a second why he imagined it as so brilliant, but discarded the notion. For all he knew, the Resurrection Stone was interacting with him in his mind and was influencing the way he pictured it.
Voldemort had wound himself in it, in you. He had corrupted it. There could be no hope of maintaining the bond as it had been. Of course he had to snap it.
Harry swallowed and reached out to Dash. This close, he could sense another mind along his, and something that might be Dash's breathing, but nothing else. Nothing of the presence that had been his support through confusing days, weeks, months, years. What felt like a lifetime, even though it hadn't been quite three years since he had bonded with Dash.
Can it come back?
This time, the Cloak replied, a voice that sounded something like a hunting horn muffled by fabric. You can only have it back by speaking to your basilisk and seeing if he will make it so. It would need to be new, not one built on the ashes of the old.
Harry nodded and turned his head, intending to ask Dash right there, but already the landscape was rippling around him and dissolving the way Voldemort's soul had when he tried to get past the Hallows' defenses. Desperately, Harry grabbed at it, but this time it slid right out of his hands like water.
The Elder Wand replied. Maybe they were taking turns, or maybe the Wand was snappish because it was tired, but it sounded sharp. You're falling unconscious. Why wouldn't you be? Your body and your magic have been under a tremendous strain.
Harry opened his mouth to argue against that, because of all the things that had happened to him he thought the severing of his bond with Dash was the worst, but clouds of darkness swept in, and there was no marble floor, or Hallows, or Dash, anymore.
His last memory was reaching out to his basilisk, and a glimpse of what appeared to be a heavy neck bowed with mourning.
Draco started up as Harry woke. It had been hours since he had so much as stirred after Dash carried his body off the battlefield. And now he had woken up calling out first for Dash, of all people.
Draco sighed and reached for the cup of water that had been standing under a Stasis Charm on the small table next to Harry's bed. He couldn't blame Harry for calling for Dash, especially because Professor Snape seemed to think something had happened to Harry and Dash's bond.
It didn't stop him from wishing that he had been the first person Harry wanted to see.
At least Harry sounded wondering and properly grateful when he did see Draco in front of him, even as he grasped at the cup of water. Draco tilted it only enough that Harry could drink without the water spilling, and nodded. "You've been unconscious since the end of the battle. That was more than a day ago," he added, and then winced at the accusing tone in his voice.
"More than a day." Harry swallowed and wrapped an arm around Draco's waist. Draco had to adjust his posture so that he wouldn't spill the water, but Harry didn't seem to notice. "I'm sorry for making you worry."
"We knew some things," Draco said, because he didn't want Harry to think that they'd been sitting around in helpless silence. "The Dark Marks on the arms of the Death Eaters on the field withered, so we knew Voldemort was really gone. And Dash carried your body to the Manor and you were still breathing, so we knew both of you had survived."
Harry nodded. His eyes were enormous. "Dash severed our bond because Voldemort was winding himself in it and we had to make sure that he wouldn't be able to possess me."
Draco swallowed and tightened his arms around Harry, but he actually had no idea what to say. He'd thought Dash had remained outside the Manor because his size might have strained some of the floors' weight capacities, but this made sense, too.
"I—why could he do that so easily?" Harry was mumbling into Draco's shoulder when Draco listened to him again. "He acted like it didn't bother him at all! He just went ahead and did it."
"He probably was hurt himself," Draco said. He didn't know for sure, but he knew Dash cared about Harry. "But it's not as if he could tell you that after the bond was gone. You couldn't speak at all when you were fighting Voldemort in your mind, could you?"
"Not after the bond was severed." Harry shuddered once more and then settled more firmly into Draco's arms. "There wasn't—it was all about what you believed in, there, and what you thought magic could do. I didn't have the time to speak to him in Parseltongue, and I don't know that he would have—heard me there. It wasn't like speaking aloud, the thoughts I got from him in the bond."
Harry seemed to be drifting off into melancholy again, and Draco asked the first question he could think of, despite the fact that it might upset Harry more. "Are you still a Parselmouth? I mean, did it go away when you destroyed the Horcrux?"
Harry gasped and looked around for a second. Draco knew what he was thinking of and grabbed his school robes off the chair next to the bed, holding them up so Harry could see the Slytherin crest.
Harry looked at it and hissed softly. Draco nearly hurt himself with how fast he sagged back against his chair. The thought of how much Harry would have been wounded if it had turned out that he'd lost his Parseltongue ability…
Well, it just didn't bear thinking about, that was all.
"Thanks." Harry smiled at Draco and then seemed to notice how scratchy his voice was. Draco put his robes down and picked up the cup of water again. This time, Harry's hands were steady enough to hold it himself, but Draco continued to tilt it for Harry. He liked to think he was making a difference.
"And you and Severus and everyone else are all right?" Harry asked, when he'd swallowed the water and leaned back against the pillow. Draco set the cup gently on the table and then gave in to the impulse he'd been suppressing since Dash had brought Harry back.
He kissed him, deeply enough that Harry gasped and Draco started. He hadn't meant to make it so that Harry couldn't breathe or something. But Harry grabbed his neck when Draco would have pulled away and dragged him partly on top of him.
So Draco reckoned it was probably all right.
When they'd kissed so long their mouths had gone numb, or it felt like that, anyway, Draco leaned his head on Harry's chest and answered his question. "Severus and Ron and Hermione and I are fine. A few of Josephine's people died on the battlefield. Mother and Father weren't in the fighting at all, and neither was I after I made Bellatrix kill Voldemort's body—"
Draco laughed softly at the note of astonishment in Harry's voice. Maybe that was a little vain of him, but it was better than visibly preening the way he'd wanted to do. "Why? You were the one who came up with that plan."
"But you were the one who actually made it work. And she—killed herself afterwards?" Harry's voice was delicate.
Draco nodded, and then shivered. "I know I have a talent for blood magic, but I honestly don't know if I can ever do something like that again, Harry. It was disgusting."
"I would never ask you for that." Harry took his hands and smiled up at him. "I can't envision another situation like this where it would be necessary, anyway. Even if there's another war, we won't be at the forefront of it again."
"Oh." Draco became aware that his mouth was hanging open, and that Harry was staring at him as if waiting for him to explain himself. Draco closed his mouth and thought about what to say. "I—thought that you would probably want to do this again if some other Dark Lord comes along in the future."
Harry laughed, a fierce sound that Draco liked better than any other laugh he'd ever heard him give. "No. I fought enough. If some other Dark Lord comes along, wizarding Britain can handle it themselves. I've sacrificed enough…" He trailed off, and Draco knew he was thinking again of his severed bond with Dash.
Draco kissed his cheek and wrapped his arms around Harry again. He hoped the bond could be renewed. Harry seemed to think it could be, or he would have been more hopeless.
And he treasured what Harry had said. They might have to fight in a war if it rose again, probably because Dark wizards wouldn't leave Harry alone, but they wouldn't have to be at the center. He would hold Harry to that promise.
Severus gently eased the door of Draco's bedroom open. He had known that Harry was awake and sane and healthy because of the mass of monitoring charms he'd put on him before he went to get some sleep after almost a day of watching, but he still needed to see it for himself.
He caught his breath when he saw Harry and Draco sleeping entangled on the bed. Surely Harry must have awakened if that was the case, and—spoken? Asked about them? Eaten something? A glance at the table next to the bed showed that the food on the tray all seemed to be there, but the cup that Draco had filled with water had been moved.
He at least has some water inside him, then, Severus decided, and walked slowly closer to the bed, wondering if he could cast a diagnostic charm without waking Harry or Draco.
When he stopped at the edge of the bed, Harry's head turned slightly. Severus held his breath. He had not wished to wake him up.
But Harry only smiled up at Severus, his face clear and untroubled despite the shadows in the back of his eyes, and mouthed the words, "I'm fine." He held Severus's gaze for a long moment, as if to make sure that he understood the message, then turned his head to rest in the crook of Draco's neck again.
Severus reached out and touched Harry's shoulder, then nodded and left the room. Only when he had closed the door did he allow himself to slump against the wall and close his eyes.
They were alive. They were all alive.