You might be tempted to skim as this chapter gets more fast-paced.
Despite the battle raging outside, Draco could hear none of it: the room must have been soundproofed, magically or otherwise. The sudden silence fell like the blade of a guillotine.
"Surprised?" said Malfoy. "You shouldn't be." He gestured to the wall, and Draco backed up until he was pressed against the familiar russet wallpaper of the Gryffindor Common Room. They stood before a ring of men in masks, and the naked-faced Bellatrix Lestrange, looking bored - though Draco just how swiftly her calm could splinter.
Malfoy raised an eyebrow when he saw who else had fallen through the portrait. "Et tu, Pansy?"
She blinked at all the Death Eaters around them, and Draco wondered if she were trying to place one of them, look for an ally. "Draco," she said. "What's going on?" She eyed Lestrange nervously.
"Why, we're killing off Potter's friends," said Malfoy conversationally. "But not because we want to," he said, adopting an expression of false concern. "It's nothing personal, you know: it's for dramatic impact."
Killing. Killing meant they hadn't done it yet.
"Draco," said Pansy again. "Don't you think that seems… er, unnecessary? There's plenty of impact outside already, wouldn't you agree?"
"Stupefy," Malfoy intoned, and Pansy crumpled. "She's so irritating sometimes," he added to Draco, as though he thought Draco might sympathize. "No? Well, not to you perhaps. But then, she never cared about me." His voice grew low. "No one does."
"Sure, Malfoy," Draco said. "That's deep. It explains everything."
Suddenly, Malfoy was far closer than he'd been, wand tucked up under Draco's chin. "Oh, do you really think this is enjoyable?" Malfoy hissed up-close. "Do you still not get it? Are you still not following along?"
He jerked his head behind him, back toward the dormitories, and the Death Eater closest to him shook his head and shrugged. "Sorry, Draco, the dormitories are still warded," came a dull voice that Draco recognized as Crabbe Senior's.
"Well, un-ward them, or is that beyond you? Lestrange, supervise!" Malfoy snapped, without turning his attention away from Draco. "You see, we're the same person – but I play the villain, while you get to play the hero. I still haven't decided which of us got the shorter end of the stick…"
"You really have lost your mind," said Draco, heart thundering in his chest.
Malfoy's face contorted to something that looked a lot like pity. "Father said you'd be as susceptible as Potter to swallowing it all, but I didn't believe him at first. I thought at some point you'd come to me and give me the 'we aren't so different, you and I' speech, and I'd tell you everything –"
"I did –"
"No, you offered to help me," Malfoy spat. "A measly fragment of his soul and still, you're just like him… and what does that make me? No – no. Don't answer that," he said.
"We can't get through, boss," said Crabbe again.
"Assist him, would you?" Malfoy hissed, and a few of the others broke off to examine the wards they'd placed around the girls' and boys' dormitories; at Malfoy's direction, a few split off from the rest to stay close to Draco and his friends.
"We're going to kill Weasley or Granger, or maybe both," Malfoy said in a low voice, right up against Draco's ear. "I haven't decided, yet. Harry Potter will mourn and the country will mourn with him… and it will make him more popular than ever. The crisis at Hogwarts will be a turning point for a righteous, just war against the Death Eaters. The Ministry will support you. The Malfoys, already leaning towards Potter, will embrace him utterly, and a golden age for Wizardkind will begin… a golden age in which Harry Potter supports our every political initiative. I'll say I was under the Imperius Curse… after all, I was never invited to a certain secret little group who were taught to throw it off…" He drew back just enough to take in Draco's face. "It's been a horrible year," he said, eyes filling with sudden tears. "I haven't been able to break free of it… I kept trying and trying… if only Potter had let me into the Defense Association…" He shook his head tearfully. "But there's no point, now, in what-ifs," he finished, sniffling bravely. "What matters is what we do next… together." He blinked the tears away, and grinned. "Well? What do you think? I've been practising my acting all year."
"Got it, boss!"
Draco swallowed, eyes closed. Weeks of research and hours of ward-work and it had bought them a few extra minutes.
"Hang on, I'll re-set the wards, once they're out," Malfoy said, and turned to the stair; but Luna came to stand beside him the moment Malfoy backed off, slipping her warm hand into Draco's. Malfoy watched her with the sort of confusion Draco normally displayed when faced with Advanced Arithmancy. "Hullo, Draco."
"Uh, hi?" said Malfoy, then frowned.
Malfoy shook off Luna's gaze and did something complicated to the wards; then sounds of a scuffle emerged from the boys' dormitories. "Ah!" Malfoy said, pressing the tip of his wand into Draco's throat again. "Easy, Potter…"
The Death Eaters tossed a struggling Ron down at Malfoy's feet.
"Careful there, Weasel," Malfoy spat, "or your friend might end up with an unfortunate hole in his neck."
Ron's gaze dashed wildly over to Draco, who shook his head no. There was nothing, yet, to be done – no opening to exploit.
There was a rough laugh and a scream, and Hermione and Blaise were emerging from the girls' dorm.
"Look what I found!" Bellatrix laughed. "Little Mudblooded whore, polluting our boys with her filth."
Hermione went white, but it was as though someone had lit a fire under Blaise… he hissed and kicked and spat until Bellatrix gave him a very Muggle knock to the back of the head for his trouble.
"Maybe we should teach this bitch her place," one of the Death Eaters suggested.
"Stop jabbering on and bring them both here," Malfoy said in a bored voice. "We aren't here to play around."
Bellatrix tossed Hermione down, but Ron managed to break her fall; they dumped Blaise; he rolled over and threw up on the carpet.
"It's a concussion!" Hermione squeaked. "He's a pureblood… you should at least heal him!"
"You think that's how this works, Granger?" Malfoy wondered. "You think pure blood matters at all to this lot? Merlin's sky and stars, you're every bit as naïve as I always thought."
Ron's gaze darted from Malfoy to Draco.
"It's all right," said Luna. "It's going to be all right, everyone. Draco wouldn't kill anyone, not really."
"I'm afraid you're misinformed, Looney," said Malfoy, conversationally. "I killed Potter, for one."
Luna blinked a few times into the silence that followed. Then – from one moment to the next – she was screeching at Malfoy, her hands stiffened into claws… she raked his face from one side to the other, drawing blood, before he was able to bat her away… when she landed, she was sobbing bitterly; she didn't stand again, curling into herself.
"You didn't," said Draco, numbly.
"Damn right he didn't," said Ron. "You're standing right there!"
"Well, I suppose since you're going to die, it doesn't really matter if you know," Malfoy said, but with altogether too much delight in his voice: he wanted to see what Ron and Hermione made of the truth. "Potter died last September, swift as a thought. Went the way of his parents with the Killing Curse. The Dark Lord couldn't do it… their wands are twins… so I was chosen for the honour."
"Malfoy," Hermione said, gazing about at all the Death Eaters ringing the room and lowering her voice. "Harry isn't dead. Harry is alive. Do you understand? You haven't done anything irretrievable, not yet. He's standing right here."
"She's sweet," Malfoy opined to Draco. "I see the charm, I think. Well, of course I do, if you do. Is it true what they say about Mudbloods? I did always wonder."
A few of the watching Death Eaters chortled appreciatively, leering.
"Shut it, Malfoy!" Ron growled. "You've lost your mind, we get it."
"The Dark Lord has been replacing important people all across Britain," Malfoy said meditatively. "What made you think he wouldn't replace Potter? I tell you, he's dead. You've been hanging around a corpse. He just hasn't started to stink, yet."
Ron and Hermione looked horrified, and Blaise, still concussed, groaned wordlessly, but none of them were looking at Draco at all.
He'd done such a good job of fooling them.
"You know, on second thought, I think we've got to prove it. Don't you?" Malfoy inquired, brows raised. "Lovegood, come here."
Luna shook her head, cheeks wet.
"Luna, come here, now," Malfoy barked. "Now, or I'll curse your friends and I won't stop cursing until they're quivering piles of flesh. I'm not going to stop until they're begging me to end their stupid, worthless little lives, do you understand? I used the necklace and I used the poison and I'm certainly not afraid to use my wand!"
"It was you with the –" Hermione began, and then, Malfoy backhanded her.
There was something about seeing anyone – but particularly seeing himself – hit Hermione that loosened all Draco's care for his own life. With a growl more like an animal's than a person's, he flew at Malfoy, knocking them both to the floor – but he had barely begun to pummel Malfoy when he realized that the other boy was fumbling at Draco's pockets and then –
The Invisibility Cloak swung over them both, and Malfoy rolled them off to the side so that they were ensconced too tightly together for Draco to thrash. There was a hasty silencing spell that sounded in Draco's ear, and suddenly they were out of the way…
"You idiot," Malfoy was saying into his ear. "You fucking moron, you really think I like this? You realize that means you think you like it. Do you hate yourself that much?"
Draco was too gobsmacked, too adrenaline-infused, too dizzied with the rolling Malfoy had led, to formulate an answer. He blinked down into his own features, so close. He could hear people outside the Cloak panicking, but soon enough they'd realize what had happened, and –
"You honestly do think you're the villain, don't you? Luckily, this won't take long," Malfoy growled, and slapped a small stone into the centre of Draco's palm. "You think I spent that whole time on the Cabinet? When my parents' lives weren't even at stake anymore?"
A warmth was spreading from Draco's palm and up his arm; he tried to shift the stone off of his palm, but he and Malfoy were wrapped too tightly together. "What -?"
"You'll figure it all out soon enough," Malfoy said, suddenly weary. "I'm going to regret every moment of this, aren't I? Fuck. Fuck," he whispered, eyes pressed shut; and just as suddenly, his voice was full of tears.
Draco tried to speak, tried to swallow, tried to protest, but he couldn't move… he could barely think… he's poisoned me after all…
Malfoy had been assigned to kill Dumbledore, but at the split, Lucius kept Malfoy back and explained that plans had changed… that Malfoy was to try and kill Harry's friends, instead. The necklace, the mead – they weren't mistakes at aiming for Dumbledore, they were designed to show everyone that Harry's friends were in danger… and it was all meant to escalate to Ron's or Hermione's eventual death. Potter's mourning would be public, would draw more to his side, would be valid enough reason for the Malfoys to defect. Meanwhile, Malfoy was meant to continue working on the Vanishing Cabinet, and 'Potter' was meant to keep opposing it.
But in secret, Malfoy had begun working on something else:
A stone that would return a Horcrux to its original vessel.
And Draco knew all this, knew all the feverish hours spent in the library, darting away just in time to avoid Hermione or Draco himself… knew all the sleepless nights in the Restricted Section and friendless lunches spent in fruitless experimentation… knew about the Slytherins abandoning him and the hurt he felt, even as he repeatedly told himself it was expedient…
Because he was sharing brainspace with Malfoy, and looking up into what he now thought of as his own features: half-moon sweep of dark lashes against sunned cheeks, wild dark hair, mobile mouth gone silent and still.
Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck, Draco thought, because Malfoy had kind of left it to him from here, and hadn't had much more of an idea of how to get them out of this situation than Draco did. He reached out for the Potter palimpsest for aid and –
There was no Potter palimpsest.
Even as Draco began to panic, he unrolled himself from the Invisibility Cloak, wand out.
"Master Malfoy!" a few of the Death Eaters exclaimed.
"Yes, of course, you fools," Draco said. "Potter tried to dupe me with his blasted Invisibility Cloak, but I prevailed."
Oh, Merlin. He was talking like a two-bit villain. You honestly do think you're the villain, don't you? he remembered hearing/saying. It took all within him not to shake his head to settle the wildly conflicting thoughts.
"And we're all duly impressed," Lestrange said. "Are we killing them, yet? Normally I'm all for taking my time, you know, but there is a battle right outside the door and once it's over, the survivors will want to make sure all their precious Gryffindors are all right," she finished in a sing-song. "So get on with it."
Ron and Hermione and Luna were all staring at him with loathing; Blaise was staring somewhat unfocussed to Draco's right.
Okay. Marvellous. All as it should be. The double-memories were dizzying – literally – Draco pressed his hand to the edge of his favourite armchair and closed his eyes a moment – but he knew whose side he was on.
Maybe they both had. Malfoy had, after all, ensured that he was the one who'd re-set the wards to keep the rest of the Gryffindors in their dormitories. With a subtle wave of his wand, he cancelled the spell; now he had to count on the others noticing in time that it had fallen…
"Oi!" one of the Death Eaters shouted, because the figure half-under the Cloak was shifting. "Stupe –"
"Wait!" Malfoy ordered. "Incarcerus! Mobilicorpus!" He floated Potter over to the others and released the two spells. "He… should be awake see this."
"Malfoy?" said his own voice coming out of Potter's mouth.
That's not your voice. This is your voice. You're speaking with your own voice. He's speaking with his. Get it together, Draco.
"That's right. Draco Malfoy, at your service," he said, bowing.
There was a startled pause; if nothing else, he and Malfoy together had convinced the room that Draco Malfoy had completely lost his mind.
In for a knut, though…
"Potter, you troglodyte," he chided. "The proper response is 'at yours and your family's…' though raised as you were, I don't suppose you knew that."
Hermione shot him a startled look, and Ron blinked.
"Where are we? What's going on?" Potter – or else, the Potter palimpsest, Malfoy supposed – snarled.
"Did you Obliviate him?" Hermione demanded. "Harry, are you all right?"
"I just want to know what's happening," Potter moaned, rubbing the side of his head. "What day is it?"
"And here I thought no one was going to take Weasley or Granger away from you," Draco said, voice breaking. "Not without the fight of their lives."
Ron was staring at him intently, now, but surely he had to be wondering about Legilimency, or even about Draco being a literal fly on the wall: he remembered Skeeter. He was also well aware that this would all be going a lot better if Malfoy – he – Malfoy – hadn't slapped Hermione so hard. Her cheek was pink and swollen. He lifted his hand rub at his breastbone, the idea that he'd hurt Hermione like a physical ache.
When he looked up, Ron was staring at the motion, brows raised.
"I will give you a fight, Malfoy," said Potter, eyes sparking. "Give me back my wand. Go on, give it back…"
"Hermione," said Draco, and Hermione's chin jerked up, surprise writ on her face, perhaps because she thought he'd called her by name. But he said, "what sort of name is that? It sounds like your parents just wanted to prove they were clever."
Hermione turned to Ron.
"Foolish name. Ridiculous," said Draco, and held his wand the especial way Pansy had shown them to use on a Boggart in lessons. "Anyway," he added, taking a breath. "I'd begun to wonder when your time will be up."
Luna looked up in surprise.
Draco could hear – but perhaps only because he was listening, waiting – the cautious turn of a latch coming from the top of the stair.
"I think it's now; don't you?" he said, jerking his head towards the Death Eaters.
Wandless, he mouthed.
"What?" Potter said.
Well; he still did have Potter's wand, but he doubted it would work for him anymore. Potter would have to make do.
"Accio wand!" Hermione, Luna, and Ron shouted, and their wands flew out of Draco's own pockets, just as Draco countered Potter's Incarcerus; simultaneously, the boys' dormitory door flew open and the remaining sixth-years flew down the stairs, cursing left and right, the girls only a moment behind; Katie's face was fierce in battle, though she made no sound.
"Episkey!" Draco cast, wand aimed at Blaise, before turning to face the Death Eaters. He knew it was a waste of a first spell, but Blaise could cast multiple spells if he were no longer concussed.
The DA operated like a finely-honed machine, even Potter; even Luna, whose face was tear-streaked and whose eyes were swollen. Crabbe and Goyle Senior went down like a tonne of rocks, and Hermione vindictively slashed at Bellatrix, murder in her eyes. In just a few minutes, the Death Eaters dropped, and the rest of Gryffindor advanced like a wave to sweep them into relieved embraces and cheerful backslapping.
Seamus and Dean wrapped Ron in a tearful hug, and Neville piled on from the side. Lavender and Parvati stroked Hermione's hair and called her brave.
"Malfoy," said Potter, emerging from the crowd like a ghost. It was so strange seeing him from the outside, mobile features operating without Draco's express permission, that it gave Draco vertigo.
"Potter," he said.
"I think you just risked your life for us," he said. "That was awfully decent of you." He extended his hand.
Draco peered down at it and back up to his face.
"History repeats itself, eh?" Potter inquired.
Draco blanched, suddenly remembering thinking that fool, who does he think I am that I need his help, that he has the power to offer me, me, Potter's influence, Potter's goodness… But that had been while Potter supposedly didn't recall anything. "What?"
"When you stuck your hand out on the train and I didn't take it," Potter said. "I'm asking to take it, now, though."
You're just a fragment of soul, Draco thought. What are you, then – and what was he?
"Sure," he said, aloud, taking Potter's hand in his own and shaking firmly.
It felt like holding hands with himself.
"There's something I thought I'd never see," said a very familiar voice.
"Ron," Draco said, turning.
Ron's dark blue gaze transferred to his face with laser-focus.
"Weasley, I mean," Draco said.
Ron tilted his head to the side curiously. Draco had made it worse.
But he had to know. "Are you all right? Is everyone all right?" He turned to the Portrait. "Merlin – the battle outside. Everyone!" he shouted, voice rising above the crowd – or trying to.
But no one was listening to him any longer.
Potter nodded with a familiar determination. "Everyone!" Potter shouted. "To the portrait!"
And everyone, even Draco, followed.
When they stuck their heads outside, though, most of the Death Eaters were gone. Those who hadn't fled struggled under Incarcerus.
"There you are, Harry my boy!" Dumbledore exclaimed, relief sagging his features for a brief moment before he composed himself. It suddenly occurred to Draco that no one had seen them tumble through the portrait and, without the Map, no one would have any idea where they'd gone. "I had utmost faith in you…" But then he caught sight of Draco, at the fringes. "…Mister Malfoy," he finished, striding forward to reach for Draco's shoulder and press it.
Draco blinked. It had suddenly occurred to him that Dumbledore had been right about who Malfoy was all along. About Malfoy needing his chance. His cheeks flushed with shame.
"Mister Malfoy has been helping me uproot the Death Eaters," Dumbledore said loudly. "I shall have a more official announcement at supper tomorrow, but know that he has been on our side all along. Or, well," he said, eyeing Draco significantly. "Quite long enough."
Draco swallowed. "Thank you, sir. You know how I like to figure things out for myself. My conclusions were more trustworthy that way."
Dumbledore's eyes twinkled behind his half-moon spectacles. "Just so, Mister Malfoy," he said. "Just so."
Draco would have led a patrol around the castle as Potter was volunteering to do, but he guessed no one trusted him enough to follow him down a garden path, much less through the remains of a war zone... and the Professors swore that they could manage without Potter and the others anyway.
"Where are you going, Malfoy?" Ginny asked, features a picture of confusion, when he pressed his hand to the Fat Lady's portrait. "Slytherin is that way."
Draco looked around and shook his head.
"Look," said Ginny, face twisting. "That must've been – tough, back there. Uh, you've… been through a lot? Do you need something?" She peered into his face, brow furrowing, and she reached out to press his arm. "Do you need help?" she said, more softly.
"I've got him, Ginny," said an incongruously businesslike voice, and suddenly Draco was being led away, Luna's slim arm hooked through his. Something in Draco's chest squeezed, harder and harder again, and he thought he might crumple from the pain of it; but Luna turned a corner and pressed him to the wall once they were out of sight, wrapping her arms around him, tight, and as if it were some cue, they slumped to the floor in tandem.
"Okay. Okay," Luna was saying, over and over; but she was crying, too. She kissed the crown of his head, then kissed it again, then wrapped one arm around him, slim but strong, and eased his head to her shoulder.
"I didn't kill Harry," Draco said, earnestly, peering into her face. "He didn't. He was lying... He doesn't have any memory of that."
"Okay," said Luna. "All right, then. But he's back, isn't he? Harry, I mean."
"In some form," Draco replied, glad for the concrete to focus on. "I still don't understand what Malfoy was, really. Maybe he was really me. Maybe this is really Potter." His eyes widened. "Merlin! They'll think I could've left anytime, now. They'll think I was doing it all on purpose. I had no way of knowing what would happen if I just… left. I didn't even try and find out how." He gripped her hands in his. "You mustn't let them know what happened, ever. Promise you won't say."
"I promise," said Luna. "But –"
"No," said Draco. "Oh, I don't even know if Blaise is okay – Hermione's face – go check on them, will you? Don't mind me, go find them…"
Luna's gaze darted back the way she came. He could tell that she needed to see the others safe, too.
"Go on," Draco said. "I'm all right, now. I promise."
"You're not," said Luna, "but they're not either, and neither am I. I'll walk you to Slytherin, first –"
"Wait, no. I'm in Slytherin again. No one can see."
"I'm very sorry for that," said Luna, so gravely that Draco cracked a smile.
"Besides," he said, slowly. "Draco Malfoy and Luna Lovegood don't even know each other."
"Well," she said. "We will have to fix that."
"Yes," said Draco. "Well."
"I'm very glad you're not a murderer, Draco Malfoy," said Luna.
"Me, too," said Draco, feelingly.
She stood, pecked him on the cheek. "I wouldn't want my first boyfriend to have been a murderer," she announced, and darted away, laughing, leaving Draco behind, still blinking in surprise.
A/N: I can forgive you for thinking this is the second-to-last chapter, but this story is far from over. If you've read it, please consider reviewing it! Thanks so much for those who have so far!