Disclaimer: Harry Potter and co. belong to J.K. Rowlings. I'm just another kid playing in her Harry Potter playground .
A/N: Sorry for the long delay in updating. It's kind of ironic considering this chapter was written before most of the other chapters before it. Feel free to review… only a few chapters until the end!
Chapter 22: Malfoy Manor
Harry closed his eyes tightly as his body lurched forward. He released the small disc in his hand as Ron and Neville did the same. He heard it fall to the floor and his stomach clenched as the sound echoed through the darkness.
Neville was trembling beside him. His breathing was short and labored.
Harry's eyes adjusted slowly to the darkness. A long narrow tunnel took form. The dark, cold, and wet atmosphere sent chills up his spine.
Ron was bent over, his hands on his knees. He lifted his head slowly and met Harry's gaze. There was no sign of apology there, only determination and the slightest sign of fear.
He pushed himself into an upright position and peered down the tunnel in different directions. He glanced quickly at Harry before nodding his head in the direction up ahead.
Harry grabbed Neville, who shrieked quietly in surprise, and took off after Ron.
The tunnel was dark, but Harry could hear Ron's footsteps a few feet in front of him. As the time went by, the tunnel became narrower. Harry's arms brushed against the cold stone of the wall on either side.
He could see more of the tunnel because small beams of light were escaping from a doorway ahead of them. Ron must have noticed it too, as he slowed his pace noticeably.
The feeling of unease grew larger in Harry's stomach every minute that went by. He felt as if they had been walking for days, though in reality it could not have been more than five minutes.
Harry stopped suddenly as he collided with the back of Ron. He stretched his arm out behind him in order to prevent Neville from doing the same. Sure enough, Neville's chest came in contact with his hand several moments later.
Harry turned to look at Neville. The light from the door escaped enough to allow Neville's face to be fully illuminated. Harry pressed a finger up to his own lips, signaling silence. Neville nodded and looked beyond him.
Harry turned and gently pushed in front of Ron so that he was pressed up against the large stone door. He pressed his ear up lightly, hoping to hear any kind of hint as to what awaited them behind the door.
A feeling of unease pitted itself in Harry's stomach. He knew that they should have waited for the Order.
He knew that they would be furious when he went back, if he went back. The danger of the situation started to take root in Harry's mind. Nevertheless, he knew there was no going back.
Not hearing any voices, he gently pushed open the door. He heard Neville gasp as they entered a dimly lit circular chamber.
Harry's heart stopped when he saw a familiar redhead slumped against the wall. Percy's hair was not short and neat as he remembered it. The wild locks shrouded his head, which was slumped down to his chest.
Before Harry could gauge his consciousness, he heard footsteps paired with voices. He pushed Neville behind several bookshelves that were overturned. He crouched down low and turned around to make sure Ron had followed suit. To his horror, Ron was standing off to his right, staring at his brother.
Ron's voice sounded pleading as he gasped out, "Perce?"
Percy's head slowly lifted, still unnaturally limp upon his shoulders. He opened his eyes slowly to meet his brother's.
Before he had a chance to answer, a large creak resounded throughout the room. A large door to the left side of the room was slowly being opened.
Harry lunged at his best friend and grabbed at his clothes, successfully pulling him behind Neville and himself.
Thankfully, the bookshelves provided a necessary barrier between the three of them and whoever had entered the room.
Harry chanced a quick look at Ron. His freckles stood out eerily on his pale face. Harry shook his arm lightly. He knew that Ron was in shock, but he also knew that this would be a very unfortunate time to freeze up. They needed to concentrate if they were going to do something. The only problem was that Harry was not sure what that something was. He knew that Ron had activated the portkey to rescue Hermione, but the situation had become a little more complicated.
Harry snapped to attention at the sound of a gruff voice that pierced through the silence of the room.
"Well Weasley, I presume you have decided to talk at last."
Harry peered through a small hole in one of the shelves. He had a clear view of where Percy was slumped. His view was partially obstructed by a cloaked figure.
Percy's head lifted slowly once again. For the first time, Harry got a good look at his face. His skin was pallid and stretched against the bones, which protruded unnaturally from under the skin. He looked like he had not been fed in months.
His eyes rose toward the cloaked figure and his adam's apple bobbed, as he roughly replied, "Never."
A sharp laugh echoed from the far side of the room. Harry carefully glanced over and saw another figure facing Percy.
Even with his back turned to Harry, Harry knew who it was behind the cloak. Too many nights had that laugh, that thing, haunted his dreams.
Harry watched as Voldemort's arm protruded from the cloak, his wand held firmly between the wiry fingers.
"You are a fool boy. I am giving you a way out. Do not try to be like your stupid mudblood loving family. I can end it now, if you just tell me, or do you enjoy being tortured?"
Harry watched, his own body frozen with fear. Percy's hands slowly clenched into fists.
"Never," he rasped.
"Crucio!" Voldemort's voice thundered throughout the chamber.
Harry was almost thrown forward as Ron slumped against him, his body trembling. Harry numbly pushed his best friend so that he was upright. Neville, seeming to awaken from a frozen trance, planted his hands firmly on Ron's shoulders so that he was in place.
All the while, Percy's scream filled the room, sending chills through Harry's spine. After several moments, Voldemort finally lifted the curse. Percy's head slumped to his chest once again, but Harry could see his chest rising heavily. He was still alive.
"Now you stupid boy, what is the spell? You do not understand what you are up against. Give me the incantation to the Veil!"
Percy did not raise his head.
His voice was low and weak, "I would never betray my family to you. I would rather die."
Voldemort emitted another painful laugh, "You are the one who cut ties with them. What can they possible offer you?"
Percy took in a deep breath, "You wouldn't understand."
Harry watched as a peculiar thing happened. Percy lifted his head just enough so that his eyes were even with the bookcase. He was not sure if Percy could see them, but there was no mistaking whom he was addressing, though Voldemort did not know it.
"I have made mistakes… I am man enough to admit it. At least before the end I now realize where my loyalties truly lie. And I will not betray them! I. Would. Rather. Die."
Each word in the final sentence was stressed, as Percy's eyes never left the bookcases.
The man who was still standing quietly next to Percy pulled up his foot and kicked him swiftly in the ribs. Percy's head lolled helplessly from side to side, while he moaned in pain.
Harry tried to think of something he could do. He knew that it was ludicrous to try to take on Voldemort and one death eater by himself. From the looks of it, Ron did not look like he was in any fit state to help and Neville looked paralyzed with fear.
Harry could only hope that someone from the Order had been alerted about their disappearance and that they would be arriving soon.
The death eater turned to face Voldemort, giving Harry a view of his face. Dolohov. Harry's stomach turned as he thought of that man being alone with Hermione, if she was even alive.
Dolohov turned toward Voldemort. "Master, shouldn't we just administer some Veritaserum? Then we can just get rid of him."
The hood that was pulled over Voldemort's head shook slowly from side to side.
"Torture is usually so much more persuasive. I prefer to break my prisoners… it is so much more glorious knowing that you forced someone to give up information themselves. The thrill is breaking them."
Dolohov nodded his head dumbly.
Harry felt Ron tense beside him. He looked over at his best friend to see his eyes alert and facial expression hardened. Ron met his gaze and nodded slightly. Harry took this as a sign that his friend was over the initial shock of the situation.
"One more chance boy, what is it? I am getting tired of waiting and I can most likely find out from another source. If you don't answer me do not think I will hesitate in killing you."
Percy lifted his head again so that his eyes met Harry's. Harry was almost certain this time that Percy was making deliberate eye contact.
His voice was tired and shaky, "The spell that you need is hidden in a place no one would care to look."
Harry could have sworn he saw Percy's eyebrow rise while he made the statement. Harry was confused, but nonetheless filed the information for later use. He knew that Percy was talking to him for some reason. Unfortunately, he only served to annoy Voldemort further.
"Enough riddles! Dolohov!" Voldemort spat venomously.
"Yes master?" Dolohov turned.
"Kill him." Voldemort ordered quietly.
Voldemort turned to leave through the door as Harry watched Dolohov turn to Percy.
He pointed his wand and started the incantation. "AVADA KED…"
However, before he could finish, Harry felt Ron leap forward. He successfully knocked into the bookcases before flinging himself toward Percy.
Dolohov stopped out of shock and turned to where Ron had come from. Harry turned to Neville, whose face had taken on a definite shade of white.
Voldemort turned around quickly.
"Weasley." He hissed.
Harry realized that it was the first time that Ron had ever come face to face with Voldemort. Ron quickly crouched down beside his brother. Harry knew that he had no choice but to act quickly.
He motioned toward Neville. When Neville looked at him, Harry made a sign for him to move to the door. Harry figured that if he showed himself at least they could have a chance to find Hermione. He hoped that he could buy Neville some time.
Neville nodded and positioned himself at the other end of the bookshelves. Harry smiled for a moment, remembering the Neville that he had met back in first year. Neville had really changed from someone who was not confident in himself, to someone who was willing to risk his life to rescue Hermione.
Harry took a deep breath and stood up from behind the shelves. All eyes turned to him. Voldemort moved away from the door and walked closer to Harry.
Harry watched as something along the lines of amusement played in Voldemort's eyes. It was almost as if he had expected him to show up.
"Potter, if you don't mind me saying, our meetings are becoming too monotonous for my liking."
Before Harry could react, Dolohov had whipped out his own wand. "Expelliarmus!"
Harry felt his wand slip out of his grip. Ron could do nothing as seconds later Dolohov had repeated the same action.
Harry's stomach dropped as Voldemort laughed. "This is the best that Dumbledore had? I don't know if I should be thankful or insulted."
Harry chanced a glance at the far door. He saw it close silently. His head turned to where Neville had been hiding, only to find him not there. Harry was glad that at least Neville had gotten away, and so far, neither Voldemort nor Dolohov has realized he had been there.
Voldemort and Dolohov were still facing Harry, their backs turned toward Percy and Ron.
Voldemort turned suddenly, his wand trained on Ron's chest.
"Let's see if your loyalty is as true as you say it is. Are you willing to risk your brother's life?"
Percy slowly lifted his head. He looked at his brother, his eyes moist with tears. He pushed his palms on the floor and lifted himself off the ground. He gripped the wall in support until he was standing next to Ron.
Percy looked at his younger brother, whose eyes were trained helplessly at the wand that was pointed at his chest.
Percy's response was so quiet it was almost inaudible.
"I'm sorry," he whispered softly at his younger brother.
Ron turned and met his gaze. His expression was a mix of horror and shock.
Voldemort sneered, unhappy with Percy's response. He brought his attention back to his wand.
Harry froze as everything happened in an instant.
Voldemort hissed the words, "Avada Kedavra!"
A green light shot out from the end of the wand, barreling across the room toward Ron. In the split seconds before it hit, Percy lunged to the side, knocking Ron to the ground. Harry watched in horror as Percy screamed, the curse hitting him square in the chest. He fell in a crumpled heap next to Ron, who looked like he was going to be sick.
Unfazed, Voldemort once again pointed his wand at Ron. "Might as well finish the job."
Before he could curse him, the door behind Harry burst open. Several people crashed into the room, hexes flying. Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw Voldemort slip through the far door where Neville had went.
A pair of hands grasped his shoulders hard. "Harry, why did you come here?"
Harry looked helplessly into the face of Remus. He looked over his shoulder to see Dumbledore, Tonks, and two men Harry did not recognize.
They quickly made their way over to the far door and left the room. Several seconds later, more people entered the room from the tunnel.
Harry's heart dropped as Mr. Weasley entered and his eyes fell first on his two sons. Harry looked at Ron who was crouched over his brother, tears streaming down his face.
Mundungus, Aberforth, and several others shuffled by, also going through the door.
Mr. Weasley slowly made his way across the room, his eyes fixed upon the body. He bent down and slowly turned Percy over, his lifeless eyes staring up at his father. Mr. Weasley's legs seem to buckle as he fell to the ground next to Ron, pulling him close.
Lupin, who was still holding Harry, shook him lightly. "Harry stay here." He sounded angry but defeated.
Harry could not nod. He could not do anything but stare. Realizing he was not going to get an answer, Lupin turned and followed the others.
Harry continued to watch Mr. Weasley and Ron, who were trying to move the body away from the wall. Harry felt anger serge through his veins as the reality of the situation set in.
He felt burdened that another person had died because of his fight against Voldemort. The one thing that he had dreaded had reached fruition. The war had finally touched the Weasleys, the closest thing to a family of his own that he had ever known.
He moved swiftly to the other side of the room and retrieved his wand, which lay forgotten on the stone floor. Not stopping to see if his exit was noticed, he opened the door.
The door opened up into a large rectangular room, as big as the Great Hall. All around, members of the Order were dueling with cloaked death eaters. Harry could not tell who was winning, although he was noted that Remus and Tonks were fighting successfully on the far side of the room.
The large stone hall was adorned with several pillars, rising up to the high ceiling. Harry noticed a large archway leading to another hall on the right.
Across the room, he counted five large doors, all of which were closed. Judging from the fact that most of the fighting was taking place in the room off to the right, Harry decided to try for one of the doors.
Just as he was about to dash across the room, Harry thought he saw Neville come out of the first door and run toward the adjacent hall.
Before he had a chance to call out to him, a hex darted by his face, barely missing him. He turned in defense and saw a cloaked figure moving upon him. He grasped his wand firmly in his hand and raised his arm prepared for battle. Aberforth appeared beside him and nudged him to the side, taking the fight upon himself. Harry was amazed at how many people were fighting; barely anyone took notice of his presence.
Wishing to use the distraction to his advantage, Harry darted across the room, and opened the first door. He jumped inside and pulled it closed behind him.
His heart lurched as he took in the sight of a figure with rather bushy hair. He tried hard to find his voice.
"Hermione?" he whispered.
She turned quickly. "Harry!"
She stood up but was prevented from moving toward him because of chains binding her wrists. She looked better than Percy had, but she still looked drained and weak.
"Harry, where is Ron? Is he alright?" she asked.
Harry nodded his head, not quite ready to voice what had just occurred.
He looked helplessly at her wrists. "We have to get you out of here. The Order is outside fighting."
She nodded her head. "Yes, I know. Neville found me before. He went to go find Dumbledore."
"I don't suppose those would come off with a simple unlocking spell?"
Hermione shook her head. "No and don't try. I have read about these before… If you don't know the correct spell you will just become chained also."
Despite the situation Harry grinned, "I must say then, I'm surprised Neville isn't stuck here with you."
She smiled weakly, "He was about to, but I told him to go find help."
Her expression grew dark, "Harry there was something about him tonight. Neville, I mean. He seemed… different, determined almost. I think you better go and find him."
Harry nodded and made his way to the door. He opened it slowly and peered through a small crack. The room was empty. He entered the room slowly, his eyes darting toward the archway. Several order members were still fighting. Much to his relief he saw several stunned death eaters on the ground. He assumed the rest must have apparated away. Unfortunately, he saw no sign of Dumbledore.
He moved to the next door and opened it slowly. He entered a large room; filled with things that Harry surmised had been purchased from Knockturn Alley. Dumbledore was walking slowly toward him from the other side of the room. He looked exceedingly old and tired.
His eyes met Harry's. "I'm afraid that Tom has once again escaped. I tried to hold him longer but alas, he is much stronger now than he has ever been. Unfortunately, he took Mr. Malfoy with him."
The door opened behind Harry and he turned to see Mundungus.
"Albus there are no death eaters left. We managed to stun about seven or eight of them. The remainder of them managed to disapparate. No one from the Order is badly injured."
Dumbledore nodded slightly and moved toward the door.
"Harry, please stay here until we know that everything is safe."
Harry nodded and suddenly remembered why he had been looking for Dumbledore in the first place.
"I found Hermione… she is in the next room on the right. I couldn't get her out; she has some kind of magical chains."
Mundungus spoke, "I think I can handle that."
Dumbledore nodded at him and the two men left the room, closing the door behind them. Harry stared numbly at the door, not able to process everything that had happened. It seemed like only seconds ago he had grabbed the portkey. Hermione was safe! He was so happy that she was all right. His stomach dropped as he thought of all of the horrible things that might have been done to her. All of the things that had been done to Percy…
The door opened once more and Lupin walked over an angry expression on his face.
"Harry, I told you to stay in the other room! You could have gotten yourself killed! Hexes were being thrown everywhere!"
Harry was taken aback at the onslaught of yelling. He was not accustomed to being admonished by anyone, let alone Lupin.
Lupin must have recognized this at once because he stopped and brought his hands up to Harry's shoulders.
"I apologize Harry. I just don't want anything to happen to you. I just wish you would think before you act. You are not expected to be the hero in every situation."
He squeezed Harry's shoulders gently before he snaked his arm across his shoulders, guiding him toward the door.
"We will talk about this later. Let's just get the three of you out of here."
Harry stopped abruptly. "Three? Where is Neville?"
Lupin turned to him, "Neville came with you and Ron? They brought Hermione into the chamber with Ron. Neville isn't with them."
Harry pushed ahead of Lupin and flung open the door. He could see Kingsley, Tonks, and several Aurors levitating bodies in the next room. He whipped his head around when he heard a scream come from one of the doors.
Apparently, Lupin had heard it too. He ran to the far door, dreading what was concealed behind it. He grasped the doorknob and pulled, but nothing happened. Lupin pushed him aside and murmured an unlocking charm.
He pulled open the door and held out his arm, signaling for Harry to stay behind.
As he followed Lupin into the room, he saw two figures on the ground. One, sprawled out on the floor was unnaturally still, while the other one crouched over it. As they approached, the figure kneeling on the ground turned and met their gaze.
Neville's eyes desperately sought out Harry's as he let out a sob.
His mouth opened and moved wordlessly for several moments before he finally gasped. "I meant it."
His eyes rolled back into his head and he fainted off to the side, revealing a very much dead Bellatrix Lestrange.
Harry stood in his spot not daring to move in case in legs gave out. The conversation that he had had with Neville replayed through his head. He remembered explaining that he could not perform the killing curse because he had not truly meant it.
Lupin carefully levitated Neville off the ground. He then turned and steered both Harry and Neville out of the door.
Thanks to my beta Junglejim… your expertise is greatly appreciated.