Greetings to everyone and I must declare that we've finally reached the last chapter of this, hem, stormy love story.
First, as usual, I'll thank the nice reviewers who has stayed with me through the story and acknowledged their opinions to me. You've helped me to become a better writer. Thank you! (Great hug)
And, some personal comments:
Berylia-Crystalia: You really know what a review means to a poor writer. Thank you for taking your time and sending some sunshine into an ordinary day.
WOW! Or whatever you really like to be called, you mysterious reviewer. Thank you for reading both stories and liking them. Your enthusiasm was much appreciated!
Desiree K Troy: I like how you've stayed with me and given me good criticism mixed with flattering compliments and letting me know stuff that's very valueable to a writer. Great hugs to you, love!
Fanfictionfan: You've given lot of wondrous feedback and once you wondered if I'd thought about posting my stories somewhere else. Where did you mean? I'm a fanfic-virgin, sort of. If you have a suggestion, please leave it in a review. (Did you note how I tried to steal a review for free now?)
Asininefreakshow: You are too cute, being upset for the lack of response! I am extremely flattered and if the story is that good, maybe I should have done better if I had not published the first eight or ten chapters at once. And then trying to spread the word of this story to your friends…I love you! Kisses and hugs!
Wyte choklate and Sisithewestwitch: I have no idea whether you still read this story or not, but still: THANK YOU so much for reviewing faithfully at the beginning and giving me courage to go on. You're support has been priceless. Kiss on cheek to you both!
And now you've been waiting far too long for the end to come. And here it is, like it or not. Enjoy your reading and love to you all! And PLEASE, PLEASE since this is the last chapter: PLEASE review and let me know if you liked the story or not. A few words are all it takes and I will be delighted and if you like, even answer you in a bonus 'chapter'.
CHAPTER TWENTYONE: THE STAND
And though you hold the key to ruin
Of everything I see
Though my kingdoms turn to dust
and fall into the sea
It means nothing to me
I'm mad about you
Two hours, twenty three minutes and thirteen seconds had past since Draco saw Neville in the basement.
He was up in his room now, sitting on the bed as if he was fixed in stone.
Everything he had possibly thought an effort before was ridiculous and easily smashed to dust by a wave of the hand.
This had been a true effort, shaping his mouth into a cruel smirk as he saw his lover badly beaten and in chains in the small room. He had not dared to cast even one glance at Neville's eyes in fear of doing something that would have them both killed in an instant.
It had been even harder to turn to his father with a grateful smile, before looking at his mother with cold, pleading eyes, the way he had done when he was a child and wanted something, and asked to be a part in the interrogation.
They had been very doubtful at first, but Draco had argued well in front of the other Death eater about Neville's weakness for him and how this could help the answers to spill out faster.
Now he had at last been granted to be present, as the torture session started in thirtyseven minutes.
He had no idea about what to do.
His mind was working and overloading itself to find a solution to the horrifying, unbelievable situation. Somehow he had to fix it, he had to get Neville out, but how it was to be done in a castle crawling with Death eaters was an impossible enigma to solve.
He sat like that for a few more minutes, before he made his final decision.
There was no use in waiting for the interrogation and then try to act. Dangerous people would be present and compose a deadly threat to them.
The one slim chance that was not really a chance was now, before the Death Eaters made their way down to the cell.
He knew they would probably die trying to break out from the castle, but then again, he knew they would kill Neville when they were done with him and his father would most likely have the honour.
Draco rose from the bed and put his Death Eater robe on, not to alert anybody about something out of the ordinary. He made sure his wand was easily reached and walked out, closing the door behind him without looking back.
He might as well die with him, trying to escape. There was no way he would survive without Neville anyway.
Just as Draco had counted on, most of the Death Eaters had drawn back to meetings and rest, just like they always did after the allegiance oath and supper. The corridor in the dungeons was empty as he made his way down there. Strangely enough, he seemed to grow stronger with each step, as new energy was surging through his veins the moment he had made his decision.
He had been absolutely blind before!
The door to the interrogation room was easily opened with a normal unlocking spell and Draco walked in and shut the door quietly before making a strong locking spell on it.
He snuck up to the half unconscious Neville and felt a stab in his stomach as he saw the cruel marks of a whip on his arms and the parts of his back that was visible through the battered shirt. At least they had left his clothes on and Draco knew exactly why. It would have been so much more frightening for Neville if the interrogation had started with a complete strip down.
Draco reached out a hand and touched his cheek carefully. Neville stirred and snapped his head up with a faint groan to see who the new torturer was.
His eyes filled with tears as he saw who it was and Draco could not watch it.
"Stop that, Neville! We're getting out of here!"
He threw a spell at the chain to make the shackles open up and they did, causing Neville to fall to the floor. Draco caught him and wrapped his arms around the wounded Gryffindor carefully and placed a kiss on his forehead before trying to decide how he could support Neville on the way out.
"Draco…" Neville started.
"Yeah, I know. I've been a total idiot! But don't worry! I'll get you out. I don't care what they do to me, whatever happens we'll face it together!"
Neville gave him a weak smile and such an admiring gaze that he was ready to turn the Dark Lord upside down and shake him if he could only have that once again.
But for now, turning the castle upside down would have to do.
Draco unfolded a death eater robe under his own robes and handed it over to Neville.
"Put this on. It will improve our chances dramatically."
"I'm not wearing it."
"Neville…!" Draco rolled his eyes and gave him a stern accusing gaze.
"I'm betraying all my beliefs for you! Now, would you have the courtesy, for fuck's sake, to wear this fucking robe?"
Neville stared back at him with dark eyes, but he did as told and showed a surprising backbone despite his wounds, insisting on walking beside Draco with only his arm around the Slytherin's shoulders for support.
"Let's go then." Neville said, his voice determined despite its weak state.
Draco drew his wand out and squeezed Neville's hand lightly before opening the door with another spell.
The corridor was empty, but Draco could hear voices from another room and stood still for a few seconds to identify every move made behind that door.
Then he decided to go for it.
Neville was halting and Draco grabbed him by the waist and lifted him every now and then when they progressed too slowly. Small stops were essential, trying to pick up dangerous sounds, but nobody broke their escape through the cold dungeons and Draco started to help Neville to the first step of the stairs leading up and out, when a door behind them creaked.
Draco spun around with his breath caught in his throat.
Lucius was behind them, his wand ready and his serious gaze told Draco they were in mortal danger.
"I knew you would do it." His father said, his voice monotone like it was when he was so angry, no shouting in the world would have made it justice.
Draco squeezed his wand tightly and heightened it slowly in a defensive position, while drawing Neville nearer with the other hand.
"Drop your wand, I'm warning you!" Lucius reprimanded him.
"No." he managed to say, very calmly, even though his hands were shaking.
"I love you, Neville." He whispered.
And then he waved his wand in the speed of lightning to cast a knockout-spell.
But Lucius was quicker and in a heartbeat he was on the floor screaming in pain from the most wicked cruciatius curse he had ever received.
Neville shouted his name somewhere in the fogs of torture, but Draco couldn't see him. The pain was blinding and overwhelming as if he experienced his last stirs before death and it ceased so suddenly that Draco almost thought it was really death itself that had invaded him.
But as he opened his eyes and glanced up with his head spinning, he saw Lucius standing without his wand, displaying a furious snarl. Neville held Draco's wand and stood his ground impressively steady, while staring back with utter defiance.
"Don't move!" Neville shouted.
"Or else what, you worthless trash!" Lucius snarled back. "You'll throw another expelliarmus at me?"
Lucius dived for his wand while Neville waved Draco's wand desperately.
At that moment several things happened at once. The door upstairs opened and Nott and Snape entered, both having their wands ready in an instant. Lucius caught his wand as it flew through the air and Neville was disarmed in the blink of an eye and flew back as two powerful spells struck him at once. One of the intruders upstairs had obviously helped Lucius.
Draco tried to rise but failed.
"WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?" Nott barked.
"FUCK YOU!" Draco shouted back at him, feeling all his suppressed emotions explode out against the hated mentor.
"You'll pay for that, right after your pathetic Gryffindor!" Lucius hissed.
Both Nott and Snape blocked the doorway upstairs and all the ways to escape was cut off. This was it, then.
Lucius heightened his wand and pointed it at Neville.
"NOOO!" Draco screamed and forced his legs to move. But it was too late.
A green light was erupting from Lucius wand and at that very moment Nott hit Draco with another powerful Crucatius and had him loosing his footing again as the spell was irreversibly pronounced.
A green light was the last thing he saw before the dark spots filled his sight and then it stopped.
It was dark.
His sight came back gradually and for a moment he thought it was Narcissa who stood where Lucius had been, her wand giving off small green sparks.
Then he realised that it was.
His father laid with his face down and Draco realised his legs were locked by Lucius' heavy body.
He heard Nott start to say something and then there was a quiet thud and the sound of a body falling down the stairs.
He turned his head, even though it was horribly painful and stared up as Snape slowly made his way down the steps. Nott lay unmoving with open eyes only inches from Draco. Then he turned to Neville and saw his lifeless body resting on the cold stone floor.
"Oh no, he's not dead, he's not dead…!"
Narcissa gave Draco an apologizing smile, as if she had just spilled some beetroot soup on a new, expensive tablecloth.
"Forgive me, Draco dear." She said, sounding like the perfect diplomat if it wasn't for the strange edge of ice in her voice. "We'll fix you a new and much better father, I promise!"
"B-but…!" Draco started and then he gave of a scream as he tried to move. At least one rib was broken and the sharp pain made it hard to breath.
He gasped to get some air in, but it was useless.
"The rib must have stabbed into something inside him." He heard Snape said as the world grew whiter and whiter. "We should move him to competent healers before it's too late. I suggest…"
And then everything drowned in bright snow.
When Draco woke up again, it was very quiet.
It was soft and comfortably warm all around him and he could not feel any pain. When he opened his eyes, he was in a wide bed and his torso was wrapped in linen stripes.
And a warm body laid beside him, snoring.
He lowered his gaze and saw the familiar red curls imbedded in a large soft pillow.
This couldn't be for real. Had he dreamed everything?
Or maybe he was dead and this was his reward for standing up for himself and Neville in the end. But did dead people need bandage?
He reached a hand out and touched Neville's shoulder carefully. He felt feverishly hot and alive.
He took a deep breath. Then another.
He couldn't even recognise the room he was in. It looked very unfamiliar to the surroundings Draco were used to and some sunlight streamed in from an open window, making the half transparent curtains move softly to the warm breeze.
Neville started to move a little beside him.
"Hi, Draco." He murmured sleepily.
Draco reacted by throwing his arms around Neville and kissing him all over.
Neville responded to it by moans and sighs, entwining his fingers in Draco's hair. Then he put his hands on Draco's chest and pushed them apart carefully.
"Behave, Malfoy!" He whispered with a mischievous smirk.
"But you were dead!" Draco gasped. "And I don't know where we are now! This might be…"
"…Grimmauld Place 12." Neville filled in, caressing Draco's cheek tenderly. "We're safe, Draco!"
Draco still felt completely at a loss, as if everybody in the world had been informed about something that he had been left outside of.
"What is Grimmauld place?" He said, full of suspicion. Then another thought struck him. "Wait a second! Am I dreaming this?"
Neville stared at him with his mouth half opened for a second and then he smiled widely, as if he tried to stifle his laughter, seeing Draco's frown and paranoid gaze.
"No Draco. It's real. Feel this!" Neville drew his hand down under the covers and pressed it against Draco's crutch. Draco couldn't help but smirk viciously and sneak his finger in between Neville's buttocks.
"So, you're trying to be cheeky, are you?"
And then the door opened and Dumbledore stepped in.
Draco gave out a loud cry, drawing the cover up to his chin very quickly as both their hands left each other. Neville's face was bright red in no time at all.
"Oh dear!" Dumbledore said, correcting his glasses. "Maybe I did not knock loud enough?"
"W-what are you doing here!" Draco demanded, shocked and shaken by the surreal entrance.
As Dumbledore opened his mouth to speak, Snape stepped in and stood beside him suddenly, by the foot of the bed.
"He saved your lives." Snape replied, in a calm but reproaching voice.
Draco looked at Dumbledore, who was now smiling kindly and then at Neville. Everybody in the room seemed to understand the situation. Obviously, Draco was the only one finding it strange to have Dumbledore and Snape in the room, as he was about to take Neville.
Nobody seemed to be kind to his confusion!
"Draco, relax!" Neville tried. "This is a secret place where Dumbledore's followers are!"
"But…what am I doing here then?" Draco demanded. "And professor Snape…!"
Dumbledore heightened a hand to plead for silence and Draco cut his sentence off. Snape looked tired like he always did in that special way, whenever the matter about Draco and Neville was in the limelight.
"You were brought here by Professor Snape and your mother." Dumbledore explained. "You were both severely wounded and had to attain special care. How fortunate it was, that Fawkes were in the house with me!"
"Fawkes?" Draco asked.
"A Phoenix." Neville added.
Snape seemed to grow impatient and took over from Dumbledore.
"The Avada Kedavra your father was about to cast never erupted, as you can see. However, the Crucatius curse had done lethal damage on you. Your mother also made herself guilty of a high treason, by putting an important ally to the Dark lord out of play. Hence, she is here with us."
Draco felt a strange twist in his stomach.
"My father. Is he…?"
"He is." Snape replied, watching him carefully under a mask of perfect calm.
Draco reflected over it for a second. He had no idea how to react and he wasn't sure about what he felt. It just seemed too unreal, nearly impossible.
Then he looked at Snape.
"But you are here."
Snape fixed a stern gaze on him.
"Oh, I get it." Draco said tiredly. He put his hand to his forehead. "I should have guessed."
"Well, you didn't." The potion's master snapped. "Unfortunately, you were too occupied with other things, slowing the process of your brain down…"
"There, there, Severus." Dumbledore said, using his parental voice against the dreaded teacher. "There is no need for harsh words. After all, we have something to celebrate. Dear Molly is baking a wondrous lemon cake, which happens to be my favourite one. But first, I must ask to speak to young Malfoy in private."
Snape nodded and swept out of the room. Neville wrapped one of the covers around him and held Draco's hand for a short moment.
"It's okay." He said.
Then he left the room too and Draco was alone with Dumbledore.
Not until four hours later, Neville was let into the room again. By then, both Snape and Narcissa had taken turns to talk to Draco in between Dumbledore's sessions and as the Gryffindor entered the room, he was greeted by a relieved pair of grey eyes, looking more alive than Neville had ever seen.
"Thank Merlin it's you!" Draco murmured.He was still in bed, seated with his back against the thick pillows. He was paler than usual but still there was contentment in his face that had never been there before.
Neville smiled and jumped into the bed, curling up next to Draco with his head close to his heart.
"How are you?" He asked, carefully glancing up at the sneering Slytherin.
"I'm stuck here." Draco muttered. "Mother has switched sides, so that she won't have to finance the Dark Lord's schemes with her part of the heritage and I have inherited half the family fortune."
Neville looked up at him for a second.
"Your mother is so cool." He said, barely hiding the admiration in his voice.
Draco raised an eyebrow cynically.
"Dumbledore says I'll have to chill out here for a while and then it looks like I'm going to join the rebellious activities." He looked back at Neville with a hint of accusation. "Just like you!"
Neville blushed slightly.
"I'm sorry Draco, but I couldn't say anything! I had promised to keep it a secret! And I did not know anything until this summer, when they picked me up on the station."
"Anyway." Draco continued. "That Weasley woman was in here with dinner and it was really simple and unprofessionally cooked. I hated it!"
But Neville could se him trying to hide a smile while saying it.
He reached up to kiss Draco's lips and he was answered really softly and tenderly.
"I think there's something between Professor Snape and your mother." Neville whispered. "You should see them outside. They fight a little too much, just like you and I did."
"Oh Neville, PLEASE!"
Draco looked disgusted and Neville laughed, but he got serious in a heartbeat.
"You said the 'L' word down in the basement." He said.
"What?" Draco looked stunned.
"You said you loved me, Draco. You used the 'L' word!"
"I didn't express it that way exactly."
"Yes, you did!"
"No, I said something more like, 'I really care about you, Neville'!"
"Really care about me?" Neville frowned with an amused smile. "What sort of soapy novel did you pick up that from?"
"I didn't say 'care', then! I said…!"
Neville burst into laughter again and couldn't stop. Draco attacked him indignantly and it turned out Neville would have great difficulties in sitting properly for an entire week.