Chapter Fourteen: Salvation or Perdition
Azkaban Prison was no less of a looming monstrosity without the Dementors as it had been with them. Ron hated Azkaban. Yes, he saw the necessity of it, but, to him, it would always be the incarnation of Hell, something that mere mortals had no right building, let alone using.
He had made this trip many times, bringing one Death Eater after another to this place. Not many of them had remained alive. Lucius Malfoy: executed. Bellatrix Lestrange: executed. Rodolphus Lestrange: life-time sentence. Walden Macnair: executed. Crabbe Sr. and Jr.: executed. Goyle Sr. and Jr.: executed. Blaise Zabini: life-time sentence. Theodore Nott: executed. Pansy Parkinson: executed. Draco Malfoy: to be executed tomorrow. The list wound on and on, more names and faces than Ron wished to remember… and many, many more names he did not recognize and faces that he would never have met… all brought to this place because of one common sin.
And, now, his once-best-friend was to join them. The last one on a list which Ron wished had never been made.
The Head Auror sighed as the stunned wizard was brought into the boat and laid roughly across the wooden floor. The strange eyes that were infamous as Lord Scylla's eyes were glazed over and unblinking. Ron tapped his wand against the side of the boat, and it began to move through the murky water silently, toward what would be Harry's final resting place.
Scylla… Harry Potter: life-time sentence.
As the boat neared the island fortress, dark storm clouds began to close in around the moon.
He walked like a man defeated, Ron thought, as he and two other aurors brought Harry towards the cells occupied by Death Eaters. These were the deepest and darkest levels of the prison, where the only light came from Ron's own wand and where the scant moonlight crept in through the small barred windows of the prison. He should have been happy that Scylla wasn't making things difficult. Even without a wand, the dark wizard could have fought back effectively enough. But he didn't. He just slowly walked as if the world had closed him off from its light and left him to the darkness.
Ron had to remind himself that it was Harry's own choices which brought him to this in order to appease his own guilt.
They were passing the cells of Death Eaters now. Scylla slowed slightly to look at the destroyed human souls which sat in their cells, but he kept moving, so Ron allowed the change of pace. No Death Eater looked towards the group, and Scylla did not try to communicate with them in any way until they reached the second to last cell, which was no Death Eater's cell.
Harry… Scylla, stopped, his eyes fixed unblinkingly at the figure who sat on the stone floor of the cell looking back at him with sad, cold eyes.
One of the aurors next to Harry prodded him, first lightly, then more forcefully, but still Harry did not step forward.
"Sir-" the man turned to Ron as if to ask what to do, but was suddenly pushed to the floor as Harry leapt toward the bars of the cage.
"Stop." Ron steadied the other auror whose wand was pointed at Harry, a spell waiting on his lips.
Harry gripped the bars of Malfoy's cell as if trying to move them through sheer force of will. Ron couldn't bear to look at him. Even though he'd heard, from Harry's own lips, that he held no remorse for his actions, the guilt ate away at the redhead.
"Just let him in!" Ron muttered. "Malfoy's going to die tomorrow anyway; he can sit in this cell just as he would in the other one."
Weak! Ron cringed to himself as the other two aurors stunned Harry again and dragged him inside the cell. Even after all he's done you still pity him! Weakling! Ron cursed as they fastened the iron chains around Harry's neck, hands, and feet. Even after all he's said you still can't think of him as what he really is! You pathetic weakling!
Ron waited only until the other two aurors had locked the cell and removed the stunning charm from Harry's prone form before turning and stalking away, trying to forget that he would have to come back the next day to drag Malfoy to his execution.
Harry moved from his position on the floor to a sitting position slowly, as the spell wore off and he regained control of his limbs.
"What did they decide?" Draco asked, leaning against the stone wall. Harry's eyes traced the reflection of moonlight that glistened from the polished iron chains connected to the other's neck, wrists, and ankles as he shifted.
"Even as fallen as you are, they still couldn't bear to kill the Boy-Who-Lived." The mirth in Draco's tone was sour, rotted.
"Don't speak like that."
Draco's eyes lowered to the patch of floor visible in the dim light of the moon. "I'm going to die tomorrow, Harry. Knowing that… changes ones perceptions on a lot of things." Silver orbs rose to seek out Harry's eyes in the dark shadows of the other side of the cell but could not find them. "I've damned myself. All that I said… you could say it was all my fault. Mine and Lord Voldemort's. They'd believe you; so easily they'd believe you. You don't have to stay here and rot like the rest of them." He tossed his head lightly back toward the wall behind him where Harry knew all the other Death Eaters for whom there just wasn't enough evidence for the grounds of execution were sentenced just as he was, to life in Azkaban. "You could move on and-"
"Shut up!" Harry's words were a mixture of a hiss and a shout. "Do you even hear what you're saying?"
"Harry, Lord Voldemort is dead!"
"And that makes me the Dark Lord." Harry slowly reached out towards Draco, his chains protesting as he pulled, trying to make them reach farther than they were designed to reach. "I've done it, Draco. What you asked for back then, I've done it! I've damned myself thrice over and I don't care what the price. Believe me, Draco, I told too. All of it. Under Veritaserum so they couldn't doubt me. I told them why and I told them how. And their reaction changes nothing. Their sentence changes nothing."
Draco looked at the hand held out to him, half-encased in shadow and half-revealed by moonlight. It was his left hand, and the emerald snake glittered on his flesh in the pale light.
"I am the Dark Lord now, Draco. I will lay the world at your feet. I will purge it of all those too unworthy to live in it. All you need do is ask it of me. Stand by my side as I conquer it."
Draco could see Harry's eyes now, the strange bird-like eyes that seemed to glow with an inner light in the shadows.
"Let me give it to you, Draco," Harry whispered. "I've damned myself for you, now be my salvation."
Slowly, Draco reached out for Harry's hand. The chains creaked as they reached for each other, stopping their fingers from meeting by barely a centimeter.
Harry hissed, and Draco heard something shift. The chain cut into Harry's hand and a trickle of blood dripped down the iron and onto the floor as Harry forced his hand to go farther and grasp Draco's fingertips.
Outside the prison of Azkaban, it began to rain.
Ron woke at the first crack of thunder, and jolted from the bed. Hermione mumbled something at the movement and opened her eyes slowly to see her husband leaning on the windowsill. As she watched, a tear fell down his cheek as his face was illuminated for a second by a bolt of lightning.
Silently, she moved from the warmth of the covers and padded over to Ron, wrapping her arms around his torso. With a muffled sob, he melted in her arms, turning and letting his head fall upon her shoulder.
"I'm so stupid!" he rasped. "I basically gave him Malfoy, of course he'd try to break out!"
Hermione rocked him slowly, knowing that this was no ordinary storm, knowing that this was the same storm that highlighted the sky whenever Harry tapped into his full power… a storm strong enough to kill and to maim… a storm strong enough to break the very stone of Azkaban if Harry wished it.
"They'll be fire-calling me any minute now…" her husband whispered into her shoulder, "want me to take a squad up to Azkaban and make sure it's still there… 'course they won't know what we'll find there… they'll never know, never believe. They never understood his power, what we're up against. Everyone will be killed, but he'll leave me alive like he always does! He's lost it, 'Mione… completely lost it! But he's going to win this… he's just got more power than we do… and with Voldemort gone, he'll just run his Vampires through the whole country. It'll be a bloody feast for them."
"Voldemort kept him grounded somewhat," Hermione whispered. "But what Voldemort wanted to rule, Harry wants to destroy."
Ron held her tight as her well-known sentence flittered through his ears. "And he'll do it. He'll level everything we've built up and lay it all at bloody Malfoy's feet, like some sacrificial offering! And I can't do anything to stop it!"
Hermione's eyes clouded for a moment as she looked out over the storm that was expanding as if to cover the entire country. "Sometimes…" she spoke, her normal tone harsh from misuse. "Sometimes it's better to give in."
Ron stood upright, turning slightly so that his shadow blocked her from the frequent flashes of lightning. "What did you say?"
"It's what Harry wants." Her voice was soft, not her normal volume, but it was her tone that startled him. It was a firm, knowing tone – one he hadn't heard for a very long time. "Malfoy may have changed him, but Harry had to take the last step and allow it. Yet he still always lets you live, Ron. How many people can say that? I think that somewhere, in the shell of a man that Scylla is, Harry still recognizes that it's you…"
"You're not suggesting what I think you're suggesting!" Ron hissed, his hands grasping her shoulders.
"I don't want you to die, Ron." Hermione whispered. "We've lost so many… I don't want to lose you too."
There was a tell-tale roar from the fireplace in the next room and a yelled "Ron!". The redhead stiffened and looked down at Hermione, who was already looking out the window again, a single tear rolling down her cheek.
"I won't die, Hermione." He told her before he stepped out of her loose embrace and headed toward the other room, grabbing his auror uniform as he did so.
"You always say that… but in the end, it will be Harry who decides if that's true," Hermione whispered as she leaned against the glass and tried to ignore the small whooshing sound of Ron leaving through the floo. Tears began to flow in a steady stream down her face. "He looses more and more of himself every day, and someday, whatever reminds him of us will be gone… and then he'll kill you."
Azkaban was a blazing ruin when the team of aurors arrived. The other members looked on in awe and horror, but Ron was not surprised. The smell of molten flesh filled the air, and he realized that Scylla had not freed the imprisoned Death Eaters before leaving the place in flames. One auror asked timidly if they should call in a fire-squad to try and put it out, but Ron shook his head. Nothing they could do would stop this fire until it had run its course. The very stones were burning, melting. The island itself would be under siege by the flames when they were done. Harry would destroy what was made by man and what was made by nature to obtain his goal. Ron understood the message. This was a new fight, with a new leader. The Dark Lord Voldemort was dead, and now his Heir, Lord Scylla, would wage his own war. With a heavy heart, Ron turned the team around and headed for the Order Headquarters. They had to be ready for Scylla… if they could be.
Draco carefully stepped over the corpse of an auror, idly thinking that this one looked familiar… he had to be someone he'd known from Hogwarts, but considering his facial features had been molded into flesh-colored slush by Harry's lightning, it was rather difficult to tell who he was.
They were all here now, all the Furies of Hades, standing together as brethren while waiting for Scylla, who was perched on the tombstone of Tom Riddle, to speak.
He took a moment to ponder the carved rock on which he lounged, taking in the carved name on the headstone, the grim reaper which seemed to be watching over it.
"The Grim Reaper. How very muggle. How very inferior." His smile was sardonic, and he seemed to glide off the headstone, robes unfurling around him. "I don't think we need this here any longer, do we?"
There were amused chuckles from the crowd, and Harry's smile widened into a horrific, amused expression. His left hand waved through the air to point at the stone, and lightning crashed down to strike it, its power a brilliant blue. The very stone shattered and fragmented, then melted away into a fine dust.
"The old regime has ended," Scylla commented, remarking on the dust. He turned to his followers, his family, the brilliant light shining in his eyes that Draco had seen only in the height of battle. "Lord Voldemort and his followers are no more. We, my Furies of Hades, are all that are left. I think that's more than the wizarding world can handle, don't you?"
Again, amused chuckles drifted through the assembled Furies.
"Of course they can't handle us. Descended from Jupiter. Sired by Hades. Guarded by Hecate. Beloved by War. This is our time; this is our world. Let us encase it in night, drive out Sol and put Luna on his throne. Will you stand by me and take what is yours, my Furies?"
Roars of approval split the night as Harry reached for Draco's hand and pulled him close to whisper in his ear.
"Here, my beloved, is the world. It is yours, and I give it to you, along with my heart."