I am so sorry for the long wait. I had so much trouble figuring out how I wanted this chapter to end. Seeing as how this is the last one, I wanted it to be just right. If it isn't to your liking, however, I apologize with all my heart and soul.

And now I'll stop rambling. Here you go.

Disclaimer: There is no way in any shape or form that I own Harry Potter. The credit should be given to one J.K. Rowling. The only thing I own is the plot.

- - -

Decreso Aetas

Chapter 17: Completion

Pain. That was the first thing that registered in Harry's mind as he slowly came to a state of awareness. With each pulse of blood through his veins, the back of his head and neck throbbed with an unbearable intensity. As much as he would have liked to, Harry couldn't find the strength to bite back the whimper that ended up escaping his lips.


That voice. It sounded so distant, but it had a familiarity to it. He strained to remember whom it belonged to, tried to associate a face with it, but his befuddled mind would not cooperate. Harry opened his eyes somewhat to see who was speaking to him, but he immediately regretted it. The bright light assaulted his eyes, causing his head to ache with an even greater vengeance. When he was able to compose himself, he gave it another try. It took a moment or two for his vision to focus. When it did, a gasp left him.

The environment Harry was currently in was not recognizable at all to him. There were trees everywhere, dull sunlight shining through their bare branches. The first thought that crossed his mind was Where am I, quickly followed by why am I here?

As he was contemplating these questions, Harry heard his name again, this time more distinctly and closer at hand. His gaze wandered around slowly, looking for the source of the voice. When his eyes fell on a large tree to his right, his heart almost stopped, and then it began beating at a fast, erratic pace. Bound to the tree at its base were Ron and Hermione. It was obviously Hermione who had called out to him; Ron appeared to be asleep, or unconscious.

Intent on going to help his friends, Harry made to get up, only to find that he was not able to do so. Looking down, he saw thick ropes that were holding him against the tree he was propped up against. What the hell is going on?

Harry opened his mouth to ask Hermione that question, but he found that his voice wouldn't work properly. However, Hermione seemed to be able to read his extremely troubled and confused expression.

"You mean you don't remember what happened?" she asked. Harry wasn't sure if he was imagining it or not, but she seemed to be on the verge of tears. Harry numbly shook his head, feeling as confused as ever.

"Well, that's not very surprising, what with the head injury you received."

Harry nearly jumped out of his skin at the sound of a quiet voice that was extremely close by. He looked cautiously to his left, only to meet the grey eyes of Draco Malfoy, who was tied to the same tree he was. Harry immediately felt lightheaded again. His mind was not able to comprehend what was going on. He realized he was shaking horribly due to a mixture of the biting cold of the autumn afternoon and nerves. However, the words "head injury" stood out in his mind. With cautious fingers, Harry reached behind his head, afraid of what he might find there. He felt a peculiar, uneven lump that spread from the back of his head to his neck. He pressed down on it gently, immediately hissing in pain. Spots danced before his eyes as he looked down at his fingers, only to see them thinly coated in blood.

"Think back, Potter," Draco whispered, glancing briefly at Harry's fingers before eyeing the Gryffindor intently. "What is the last thing you remember?"

Harry strained his mind, trying to think back to before he woke up. A piercing headache immediately formed just above his now-closed eyes. He could picture fragments such as walking down a road with other Hogwarts students, fighting against a frigid wind. He recalled purchasing candy; he had obviously been in Hogsmeade, in Honeydukes to be more precise. Then he was at the Three Broomsticks. But what was he doing there? In his mind's eye, he saw a flash of platinum blonde hair. Malfoy. That was when everything began coming back to him.

Malfoy...the Slytherins...a plot...Ron under the Imperius curse...a dark alley...Hermione unconscious...an unfamiliar voice...immense pain...darkness.

Oh God... Harry, whose eyes sprang open at the revelation, vehemently cursed his stupidity and unintentionally banged his head against the tree behind him. That only resulted in his vision blurring heavily and the pain returning tenfold. A strangled yell freed itself from his throat. A hand immediately clapped over his mouth.

"Will you be quiet?" Draco hissed, his eyes daring around frantically. Harry merely slumped down in his bindings in response, his eyes unfocused.

Just as Draco removed his hand from his mouth, ready to shake Harry's shoulder to see if the boy was still conscious, a loud crack rent the air. The blonde jumped violently, sending the Gryffindor's glasses through the air in the process. The spectacles landed at a pair of feet that had materialized out of thin air mere seconds before. The hooded figure that had just Apparated into their midst bent down to retrieve them. The glasses were held with disgust, as if they could easily contaminate the one touching them with a deadly disease. The feet then began moving toward the two trees the four of them were bound to at a slow, leisurely pace.

"Well, well, well," a voice sounded from under the hood. The person was obviously female, even though the voice was harsh and raspy. "Our young Savior is finally awake." She had most likely heard Harry's yell from wherever she was. A cold laugh emanated from the figure, chilling them to the bone. Draco realized, with horror, that the voice sounded strangely familiar.

"I've wished to talk to you face-to-face for some time now." The woman pulled back her hood, revealing a dark-skinned, beautiful face. Draco nearly choked on a gasp. It was Blaise Zabini's mother.

Draco remembered seeing this face on a few occasions. She was invited over to the manor for tea from time to time when he was a child. That was how he met Blaise. She would bring him over so Draco would have someone to associate with while she and Narcissa talked. He had always thought her to be a somewhat pleasant woman, despite the fact that she and her family was extremely supportive of the Dark Lord. His opinion of her was entirely different now, however, as he took in her sickeningly sweet attitude.

"Your defeat of the Dark Lord has been a rather mysterious subject among my acquaintances and I, one that left us with many questions." She knelt down in front of Harry, an almost manic look replacing the feigned sweetness on her face. She no longer looked remotely beautiful. "How was it that a pathetic whelp such as yourself managed to bring down the most powerful wizard of the age?" she all but spat as she none too gently placed the glasses back on his face. A finger then came up and pressed itself against his scar. Harry recoiled, his eyes flashing dangerously. Even though his scar no longer hurt, it was still sensitive, and having an enemy such as this woman dare to touch it brought his blood to its boiling point.

"Don't touch me," Harry hissed in a somewhat slurred voice as he jerked his head back. A flicker of pain went across his face at the movement, but it went by so fast it was difficult to notice. He glared at the woman with a heated, steady gaze.

"Defiance will get you nowhere, Potter," the woman snarled, bringing her wand out and aiming it at him.

"It seems to have worked for me so far," Harry muttered. His gaze briefly settled on the wand before meeting those dark, cold eyes once more. Draco wanted to strangle him. Why wouldn't he just keep his mouth shut? They didn't know what this woman was capable of, and he wasn't very intent on finding out.

"I have a feeling that that's about to end," she hissed. The woman brought her wand down in a slashing motion, and the ropes fell away from the two boys, cleanly cut. Draco couldn't help but imagine that being done to human flesh. He soon felt lightheaded. He watched as Harry slowly got to his feet, swaying a bit, his emerald eyes fixed on the person before him.

"What do you think you are doing?" Draco hissed, remaining on the ground. Harry ignored him. The woman, however, shifted her gaze from Harry to him. A feral smile appeared on her face.

"You may want to keep out of this, young Malfoy," she muttered. "You'll have the chance to have your say when I'm finished with Mister Potter here, you filthy blood traitor." Despite Draco wanting to keep a calm, collected mask, his eyes widened ever so slightly. The woman gave a derisive snort. "What, you didn't think I knew about you helping defeat the Dark Lord? Don't make me laugh. Surely you realized that there would be eyewitnesses, other Death Eaters that managed to escape death and torture. And those that weren't there to see it were later informed, of course. Yes, even your dear old father." Draco merely looked at her after this revelation, attempting a haughty expression, though he felt a small twinge of fear.

"He must have known you better than you thought, otherwise you wouldn't be sitting here right now. His plan had worked. Do you remember the letter he sent you earlier this year? Well, it was all a lie. I placed your mother under the Imperius Curse to prevent her from writing to you. Your father figured that if you and Potter had something in common, such as the loss of a loved one, then you would bond. He felt that if you became friends, and Potter was in danger, then you would follow to help him. So he came up with this plan to get back at you for what you did. At first he wasn't sure if it would work. But obviously it has. And now here you are, ready to receive what you deserve for turning your back on us."

"But oh, I can just imagine the mutterings that went on in Azkaban before all this, though..." she continued, now twirling her wand between her fingers. "The only Malfoy heir, reared by one of the most dedicated followers of the Dark Lord, turned traitor. But don't worry, you'll get your comeuppance soon enough."

"Now, Mister Potter," she said as she turned to face the Gryffindor. Draco saw the other boy tense out of the corner of his eye, his wand at the ready. "Crucio!" she exclaimed with a flourish of her own wand. But Harry was prepared.

"Protego!" The curse deflected off of the shield and collided with a nearby tree, sending splintered bark flying through the air. "Expelliarmus!" Harry then attempted, but the woman blocked the jet of red light with her own Shield Charm.

"Nice try, Potter, but you're not fast enough," she said. "Diffindo!"

Harry wasn't able to react quickly enough this time. The spell hit him in the face. Immense pain came as a result, and he could feel blood dripping down his cheeks. The woman took advantage of his momentary distraction and trained her wand on him again. "Imperio!" The curse hit his chest directly, wiping his thoughts clear instantly. Then a voice sounded in the back of his mind, barely audible, as if being heard from a great distance. Hex your friends until they beg for mercy...attack Malfoy...

Harry felt his arm move, as if to raise his wand, but he was able to stop it as his strength of will increased and he managed to throw off the curse. He focused his eyes and set them on the lady before him. She had a dark expression on her face.

"So it is true. You can throw off the Imperius Curse. I have heard the rumors, but I didn't believe them. But now..." She sneered. "Maybe you aren't as useless and pathetic as we all thought. But you are still too meddlesome and annoying for your own good." She twirled her wand between her thin fingers. "I wonder if I would receive some kind of compensation for finally ridding the world of Harry Potter." The woman leered at him, her dark eyes glazing over somewhat. "Darkness would be able to rise again, this time unhindered by any obstacles." The wand was trained on the Gryffindor once again. "I'm done playing with you, Potter. I hope you've already made your death wish."

In the split second before she opened her mouth to enunciate the curse, Harry cast a sidelong glance at Draco, who was looking in his direction. An understanding seemed to wash over the both of them as they realized what the other must have been thinking. Surreptitiously, two wands were raised.

"Avada --"

"Decreso Aetas!"

Two spells issued from the two wands and collided in midair, just like on the battlefield. With a bang and a cloud of smoke, they met their target. The effect, unlike with Harry, was instantaneous. A wailing began behind the smoke, and as it cleared, a mound of wiggling robes was revealed. Harry walked over and shifted some of the folds aside and found himself looking at the scrunched up, tear-stained face of an infant.

"Harry, I'm so sorry." Harry jumped slightly at the sudden voice. He peered around and looked at Hermione. The girl, though still tied up, was shaking uncontrollably. "I should have tried to distract her. But I wasn't thinking straight. I was just so..." Her voice broke somewhat. "If you and Malfoy hadn't reacted so fast, you -- you..." She shook her head violently, tears now streaming down her face. "I feel so useless."

"It's okay, Hermione," Harry said quietly, kneeling down in front of her to free her and Ron from their bonds. "You would have just put yourself in danger if you tried doing that. Besides," he added with a crooked smile, "I'm a big boy. I can take care of myself. But I greatly appreciate the concern. And you're far from useless." He enveloped her in a brief hug before turning his attention to the unconscious boy next to her. He raised his wand and muttered, "Ennervate." Blue eyes flickered open and focused on the face swimming in front of them.

"Harry?" Ron mumbled in a raspy voice, looking a little dazed. "What happened to your face?" Harry reached up and gingerly touched the wound; he had completely forgotten about it for a bit. "And where are we?" The redhead glanced around him, his eyebrows knit in confusion.

"Don't worry, Ron," Harry replied. "You'll find out soon enough." He then looked back at his other friend, who was rubbing at her wet cheeks. He hesitated for a moment, then asked, "Hermione, do you remember how you and Ron came to be attacked?"

"I'm pretty sure we were just walking down the road toward The Three Broomsticks," she replied quietly, glancing down at her hands. "I vaguely remember hearing a voice say the Stunning incantation before blacking out. Ron must have been placed under the Imperius Curse and sent to get you right after that."

Harry merely nodded at this. He wasn't sure what to say; all he knew was that he wanted them all to get back to Hogwarts as soon as possible. "Okay. Do you think you are able to Apparate yourself and Ron back to Hogsmeade? Madam Pomfrey will be able to check you two to see if there was any other damage done." She met his eyes and nodded. "Good. I'm going to take the baby and go with Malfoy. We need to go see Dumbledore." She nodded again and got to her feet, then bent down to help Ron up.

"See you soon," Hermione said before grasping the redhead's arm; the two of them disappeared with a faint pop.

Harry glanced at the spot where his two friends had just Disapparated for a moment before turning toward Draco.

"What about you?" he asked slowly. "How did you come to be here?"

Draco didn't answer for a moment; he looked away, an unreadable expression on his face. Then he said, "I just followed you to that alley. I arrived just in time to see you being attacked with what looked like a large stick." He shuddered at the violent memory. Then a dark expression clouded his features. "Now that I think about it, she did seem to be expecting someone else to come. The moment you fell to the ground, she spun around and placed me under a full-body bind. Then she Apparated us all here and tied us up."

"At least she didn't do anything worse to you," Harry said after a moment, feeling grateful that no one was gravely injured. He knelt down to pick up the crying baby. The Gryffindor bundled the robes around her before looking at the blond. "Are you up to Apparating right now?"

"I think so," was the reply. Harry went over to stand next to him and placed a hand on the other boy's arm. "Ready?" the Slytherin asked.


There was a second pop and the three of them were gone.

- - -

"Why does his office have to be on the seventh floor?" Draco panted as they raced along the corridor that led to said office. "Wouldn't it make sense to have it on the first so everyone has an easy access to it?"

"Yeah, it would," Harry replied as he hurried in Draco's wake. He was going fast enough to keep up while at the same time making sure he wasn't jostling the baby too much. Even though she was previously the enemy, this was still an innocent child and shouldn't be injured in any way.

When they reached the gargoyle, they paused to catch their breaths. Draco then said the password, and the two boys went up the stairs.

"Come in," the headmaster said after the Slytherin knocked on the door. He opened it and they entered the circular office.

"To what do I owe this pleasant vis--?" Dumbledore began with a smile. But then he caught sight of Harry's face and the bundle in his arms, and his smile faltered. "What is this? What happened?" He now sounded serious and worried.

"It's a long story, Professor," Draco mumbled as he and Harry took seats in front of the desk. "It all started when..." He then launched into the story about how he overheard the Slytherins in the common room, how he told Harry while in Hogsmeade, and all that happened afterwards, including his father's plan. Dumbledore remained silent throughout the whole thing, but his silver eyebrows slowly came together as he contemplated what he was being informed about.

"So you mean to tell me," he started after the Slytherin trailed off into silence, "that Harry wandered off, alone, when he knew that there was a large possibility of there being danger?" Harry looked away at this but mumbled an affirmative all the same. "I am disappointed in you, Harry. I expected you to think more rationally when it came to something like this. I am just glad that you escaped with your life."

"I'm sorry, sir," the boy replied. "I just wanted to follow Ron so he could lead me to Hermione. I wasn't sure if anything had happened to her because she wasn't with him when he came to see me." Harry then looked away from Dumbledore's scrutinizing gaze and shifted in his seat, readjusting his arms around the now slumbering infant.

"And this child," the headmaster began again, leaving Harry's daft choice to be forgotten. "She is Blaise Zabini's mother?" He received two nods in reply. "This must have been the work of two or more combined Decreso Aetas charms, seeing as how this is a great age reduction."

"It seemed like one of the best choices of defense at the time, professor," Harry muttered. "If the spell is the same for everyone as it was for me, then there is a possibility that she may remember terrible things from her past, even though she is very young at the moment. To turn out the way she did, there had to have been some things that she'd rather not remember. All the same, it's better than what she deserves." A dark expression crossed over his face.

"Yes, well, someone will still have to take care of her seeing as how she's only an infant right now," Dumbledore replied. "Someone from the Ministry will surely be able to take on the job. I will look into that immediately. And after she is back to normal, she can be taken to Azkaban for her actions today. I will also have to see to those other Slytherins. They played a hand in this, too."

"Thank you, professor," Harry said, his voice grateful. He stood up, walked over to the professor, and handed him the child. Dumbledore nodded and motioned for their dismissal. The two boys then left the office and began making their way toward the hospital wing in silence.

- - -

"This room is really nice. I think I could really come to like being here."

Harry was standing on the bridge in the Room of Seasons, taking in the atmosphere of the room. "The last time I was in here I didn't really notice that much about it." The smile on his face faltered for a bit at that memory, but he was able to keep it in place. He turned to look at Draco, who was leaning against a nearby tree. "How did you find out about it?"

"Granger found something about it in a book," Draco replied. "And this isn't what it looks like all the time. Watch." He took out his wand. "Frigus!"He had to hold back a grin as Harry yelped, much like he did the last time this spell was cast.

"Draco! You could have warned me!" the Gryffindor exclaimed. "It's bloody cold in here. And...is that actual snow?" He was eyeing the flakes that were dancing in front of him and leaving a slight dusting on the grass.

"Well, it is called the Room of Seasons for a reason, you know," Draco replied. Harry made a face at the other boy's sarcasm.

"I think I realize that now," he said with a small smile as he went to stand by the other boy. He continued looking around as he pulled his robes tighter around himself, the smile slowly sliding off his face. "I'm glad everything is back to normal now," he said after a brief moment of silence. "Well, as normal as it can be, anyway." He scuffed the toe of his shoe in the thin layer of snow. "At least everyone didn't suffer because of my stupidity. Ron was finally released from the hospital wing a couple hours ago. There were no remnants of the Imperius Curse left on him." He heaved a sigh of relief.

"Harry," Draco cut in, not sure whether the other boy would continue his rambling or not, "as much as it may pain me to admit this out loud, you are not stupid." He managed to get a weak smile out of the Gryffindor. "You just made a mistake, which happens to everyone."

"But one at such a magnitude? That's hard to believe."

"But you are alive, and that counts for something," Draco replied. "Although you could have gone without this." He reached up and traced a finger against the very faint scar that ran across Harry's face. "Just what you need, right?" He managed a faint laugh.

"Madam Pomfrey was able to heal my injuries very well. And she said that if I continue taking dittany for the next couple of days, there should be no scarring left, and that I can be very thankful for," Harry mumbled. "I don't want any more scars. One is enough."

"You can say that again," Draco said. He shifted his gaze toward the open wall; the sky outside was steadily darkening. He tried to ignore the pressure he began feeling in his chest, but the harder he tried, the more intense it became. He soon wasn't able stand it any longer.

"I just can't believe what my fa-- what that man did," he spat. The Slytherin covered his face with his hands. "Who would do such a thing? I can understand that he would be furious about what I did, but what he did was as low as it could get. To think that I thought he may have cared somewhat about me, but no. He used his own wife and led me to believe that she was dead, just so he could lead me into some kind of trap. Well, it didn't work. Not fully, anyway. I'm still breathing, aren't I? He can just rot in hell for all I care. And all I can say right now is that I'm glad that he didn't find out about you being under that spell. Things could have been a lot worse."

Harry stood there, keeping quiet throughout Draco's rant. He understood that the other boy needed to get this off of his chest.

"I just wish I realized this plot sooner. I should have noticed that the letter was too vague. It just caught me off guard." He took a shuddering breath before moving his hands away from his face. Harry was pleased to see that he looked a lot less tense. "I just hope she's okay."

"She is," Harry said forcefully. "If Ron is no longer under the Imperius Curse, she shouldn't be either. She will write to you soon enough. And to put things in an even better light, those Slytherins are in a lot of trouble. I heard that they're going to be charged for what they did when they're all of age, but their sentences won't be as great as hers. And Blaise was none too pleased about his mother's condition. He's not able to do anything, though, because he and the others are being watched very closely now. Better yet, they don't know that you're behind it." Draco eyed him for a moment, the other boy's confidence and glee about the other Slytherins' misfortune taking a hold of him. It's no less than what they deserve, he thought. He began to feel a lot better.

"You know, if this was only the beginning of the year, I'd hate to think what the rest would be like," the blonde said after a moment.

"Yeah," Harry replied with a small chuckle. "Hermione is already harping about our N.E.W.Ts. She's going to drive Ron and I crazy come December."

"Well, are you sure that's really possible?" Draco said with a smirk. "I mean, you're already crazy. I'll have to warn her not to addle your brain any more than it already is." Draco laughed at his own comment; however, he paid dearly for his moment of inattentiveness. He soon let out a yelp of surprise.

"What was that for?" he exclaimed. He whirled around to face Harry, who was brushing snow off of his hand. There was a playfulness in his emerald eyes that hadn't been there for quite some time. Draco batted at the neckline of his robes, trying to rid himself of the bitter coldness he felt against his skin. He grumbled in annoyance. "You'll pay for that, Potter." Draco picked up a handful of snow and threw it at Harry. The other boy retaliated. This continued back and forth until the Slytherin flew toward the other boy, sending them to the ground in a heap of tangled robes and limbs.

"Oh, before I forget, there's one more thing you may want to watch out for while you're in this room, besides the change in weather," Draco muttered as he brushed some snow out of Harry's dark hair.

"And what would that be?" the Gryffindor questioned, eyeing the pale blonde.

"There's a group of barmy fairies that live in here, and I think they've taken quite a liking to you," Draco replied with a slight smile.

"Oh," Harry said. Then a sly grin spread over his face. "Well, that's just too bad isn't it?"

"What's too bad?"

"Well, I'm already taken, aren't I?"

The blonde looked surprised at the bluntness of the statement for the briefest of moments, but then he laughed and leaned down.

As Draco brushed his lips against those of the boy beneath him, he could have sworn he heard tinkling laughter and the rustle of branches.


- - -

Wow. Almost 3 years that I've stuck with this, and now it's done. And to think, if I hadn't stayed home from school that one day, this wouldn't have been started. Blah.

I would greatly appreciate everyone's feedback on this fic. I'm sad that it's actually finished now, though. My first fic, and it's complete. I thank all those that stayed with me and left great reviews along the way.

Anyway, if anyone has any questions, don't hesitate to send me a message. I did my best to answer everything in this chapter, but I may have forgotten some details.

And I must say -- This is a huge burden that is off my shoulders. Now I'm free to plan out my new long-shot without having to worry about this one. Heh.

Thanks again, everyone.

Much love,

Haunted Emerald Depths