Name: In the Name of Light

Fandom: Harry Potter

Rating: PG-13

Pairing: None

Summary: Malfoy makes a decision that will ultimately sway the war, and with it makes the final and biggest sacrifice.

The rest of the night was spent in an agony of contemplation on Harry's part. He sat for hours, staring at the window through which Malfoy had left. Could he do it? Could he find it within himself to sacrifice one boy, one man, he corrected himself, for the sake of an abstract cause. Could he bear the burden of realising that the blood of one who though not completely pure, was mostly innocent of all that had occurred, would be on his hands for the sake of making the world safe? As he thought it over though, he realised that Malfoy was a better judge of character than he had ever thought. He could, and he would. And he would be strong enough to show compassion.

As the other boy had said. You're a soldier now Potter, in your own private war. Words truer than even he could know. This was between him and Voldemort, Malfoy's name was merely another entry on the list of things Voldemort would have to account for. He marveled privately at the strength that Draco had shown, the will power in talking of his own death, even planning it so stoically. The humility he had shown in coming to Harry of all people, not as a supplicant but as an equal. The night passed, as nights have a tendency of doing, but the dark sky that overlooked the castle, was unaware that it had witnessed an event that would change history.

The next day Harry was so pale and drawn that Hermione was quite worried over his health, and it was only with difficulty that he restrained her from forcing a Pick-Me-Up potion down his throat. He found himself wondering what Draco was doing on this, the last day of his life, and found that, that more than anything caused hot anger to flood through him. To die, with no ceremony or ritual. To die so that others might live, and yet not even to celebrate the last day of living. That was the ultimate unfairness of the universe. He considered telling Professor McGonagall and the Aurors what would be occurring tonight- surely an event of such magnitude would be attended by every Death-Eater, and huge swoops could be made even if Voldemort eluded them somehow. There was a strange reluctance in him however. He knew, without knowing how he knew, that they would contemplate this course of action. Like fools, they would rush in to save the innocent sacrifice, convinced they were helping, when indeed all they would do was save the new vessel of Voldemort. He wouldn't know how to explain to them, that Draco Malfoy must die. That it was imperative. They would be horrified at his callous disregard of human life, and would look at him askance, mutter amongst themselves of his heartlessness. Only Malfoy had understood, would understand that what had to be done, must be done. Caterwauling about human rights and the rights of one person over a thousand, could be done by the liberals, but the tough decisions in the end were those that fell to the leader's lot.

So tonight he would face alone, and in the strength of his actions and steadfastness of his hand, he would reflect the courage of the man he killed. One thing he did enquire of however, of Professor McGonagall was the making of a Portkey. That had been when he had discovered that there were permanent Port-keys situated all around Britain. The closest one to Crooked Tree Hill was thirty seven miles, a distance easily covered on broom. He spent the day in the library researching every possible secrecy spell that would enable him to pass unseen and remain unnoticed that night. He even found one that would dampen the tingle of sixth sense that every human possessed, that enabled them to tell they were being watched. His Invisibility Cloak naturally was tucked into a capacious pocket, and he ate well. These preparations did not go un-noticed by either Hermione or Ron, even the extra-strengthening spell he cast upon his glasses, and they confronted him just after lunch in the library. "What are you doing?" asked Ron.

Harry played innocent. "What do you mean?"

Hermione spoke this time. "We're not stupid Harry. You're preparing for something big, something you haven't told us about..." she was about to continue, but Ron broke in.

"You're not going to do something stupid like find Voldemort and challenge him to a duel, are you?" he enquired impatiently.

Harry laughed, aware even as he did so that it sounded brittle and forced. "Don't be mad Ron. I'm not that stupid. Nothing's happening all right?" This was not something he could share with them, no matter how much he wanted to share the burden. The guilt belonged on his shoulders not theirs, it was his sin, not theirs.

Perhaps something of this filtered through to Hermione, because she looked closely at his face, and said quite sharply. "Leave it Ron."

Ron less sensitive, or just more stubborn persisted. "Harry mate, we've shared almost every dangerous thing, to a lesser degree than you yes, but even so we've been there. Don't try and cut us out, and play the hero."

Harry could have laughed until he could not breathe at that. Play the hero? Precisely the opposite. Tonight at least, someone else was taking centre stage. Tonight was a battle, not the conclusion of a war. Part of Voldemort's soul would be destroyed but there were other pieces which he knew nothing about, which he had no doubt would arise and take their place on the chessboard. He was amazed at how calm his voice was. "No Ron. I can assure you, I will not be 'playing the hero,' as you so delicately put it. But this is not your fight tonight, nor even mine." For a heartbeat he held out, then finally he decided that it would be less risky to tell them what was happening, than risk them following him unawares. So he told them all that had transpired last night.

"You are insane Harry," grumbled Ron, when he had finished. "It is a trick. It can't be anything but a trick. Malfoy doesn't have the honour of a stoat, and to imagine he would sacrifice his own life for anything, is to be quite frank with you a fantasy of the highest order. You know that as well as I do, hell you lived through six years of knowing that. Malfoy's first loyalty is to himself, and his second is to Voldemort, and I can assure you, the idea that he would rather than serve his lord is absurd."

Harry paced up and down the room, looking anywhere but Ron and Hermione. "I know how you feel Ron. But you weren't there. Trust me, no-one is that good an actor. He was truly afraid, he was terrified of death, and yet he seemed different. It was though I was talking to a whole different person than the one I knew in school." He paused, not knowing how to frame his next words. It was though Malfoy had grown up all of a sudden, had left behind childish rivalries, and decided just exactly the course his life was going to take, he shrugged helplessly. "Look if you don't believe me Ron then don't. But I have to do this, I promised him I would." He hesitated and said softly. "If I am right, and he does what I think he will do, then I owe him enough to be there at his death.

Hermione spoke and her voice was soft. Despite its low tones, it cut right through Ron's blustering. "He gave you the time and place Harry. The obvious thing is to inform the Aurors, they'll turn up and capture Voldemort, and Malfoy won't die."

Harry shook his head impatiently. "You don't understand. Remember what Voldemort did to the last group of Aurors who crossed his path." They all fell silent, remembering. Voldemort had flayed them, inch by excruciating inch, and then had wrenched every last drop of magical ability from literally their very bones. The end result, had made the most experienced medi-wizards sick to their stomachs, and the bodies had been burned there and then, rather than risk relatives catching a glimpse of the corpses. "Besides I have a feeling that Malfoy might die anyway. When I saw him, his physical condition was terrible. He was coughing blood, and he was as thin as a rail. There must be something causing that." He did not bother to give them the reasons, he had given himself earlier for not notifying the Aurors. They wouldn't understand. Even now the full enormity of what he was planning to do had not sunken in.

Hermione's brow furrowed. "That doesn't make sense. Surely Voldemort would want the body he planned to inhabit in the best condition possible? Unless…" her voice trailed off and she began to think.

Harry was pretty sure he already knew the answer. "From what Malfoy said, he wasn't able to destroy his body in any harmful way, so he obviously found another way to undermine Voldemort's efforts. The less he ate, the weaker he got…"

Hermione nodded. "Of course, Harry. And I would assume that Voldemort is going to invade every cell of Malfoy's body, and infiltrate him completely. But in order for that to be accomplished, he needs to remove Malfoy's natural defences. I'd assume that Malfoy's immune system is at an all time low, and he is at risk from any passing infection, at least until Voldemort invades him. At that point, the magical energy Voldemort has accumulated will go into repairing the body, and rebuilding defences."

Ron shrugged helplessly. "I don't understand this," he confessed. "Just what precisely will happen to Malfoy if Voldemort seizes his body?" He stumbled over the word Voldemort, tongue tripping over the syllables.

Hermione answered. "Two possible things. One his mind will be utterly detached from the body, in which case he would die immediately, or the second, most horrific possibility is that he would continue to exist within the body, completely powerless, unable to do even the most rudimentary thing. He would have absolutely no control over the body, indeed he would be nothing more than a wraith, a ghost, living on in Voldemort's mind, witness to every dreadful deed, and perverted thought that monster commits. A living hell. If you could even call it living."

Ron was silent for a few moments before replying. "I still don't trust the little weasel Harry, but if you and Hermione are right, then do what you think you must do, not even Malfoy deserves that fate. But I'm coming with you."

Harry shook his head firmly. "I must do this alone. One person won't be spotted especially with an Invisibility Cloak, and there is nothing you can do." Neither did he add, that he didn't want either of them to see Malfoy die. That guilt, that curse would belong to him.

Later that night, he set off early in order to prepare his hideout. He was carrying a notepad full of scribbled spells, his Invisibility cloak and the precious bit of paper that Draco had given him with the incantation written on it. He flew to Crooked Tree Hill, arriving early enough that the protection spells had not even been set. It was oddly shaped- a flat plateau at the top, with outcroppings of rock. It was in one of these that he secreted himself, casting spell after spell, no matter how weak, of protection, secrecy, and general illusion, and repellation. He wasn't going to take a risk of some Death Eater sitting on top of him. He wrapped his Invisibility Cloak around himself for safe keeping, and waited. It didn't take long, soon he felt the soft swoosh of Apparations begin, and moments later heavy protection spells go up all around the perimeter of the hill, and extending for half a mile in every direction. Too bad for them, he was already inside. Eleven 'o' clock came and went. Harry's own watch was set to precisely midnight. Then, he felt it. The heavy malevolence of power, the dark mastery of Voldemort, the intangible scent of evil. Right before his eyes Voldemort stood, only ten metres or so away. Harry itched to cast a spell, but restrained himself. Now was not the time.

Then even closer, Draco appeared. His face was so calm and peaceful that Harry wondered with a sick feeling of uncertainty whether this was a trap. However no shouts broke the silence, no one spelled him or seized him, so he began tentatively to relax. How could Malfoy be so calm when faced with the knowledge of his impending death? Then Harry realised. This was the serenity of despair. It could be no other way, no matter what happened he would die tonight, and he had obviously decided that to take it with courage, was more worthwhile than going shivering and sniveling to his death. Voldemort began to speak. His voice thrummed with power, an unwavering chant, that never quite resolved into words, and yet was filled with menace and intrigue. Finally he stopped. Six minutes were left until midnight. "Draco Malfoy," intoned Voldemort. "Son of Narcissa and Lucius Malfoy. Grandson of Augustus Malfoy and Cecilia Wraithfell. You have been chosen for the signal honour of housing my soul. Your body will father my children, your tongue will speak my words. Though you failed in the task I set you, of killing Albus Dumbledore, lacking resolve, I chose to overlook this weakness, and allow you still the honour." If ever Harry had doubted Voldemort was insane, this sealed it for him. The madman actually believed he was honouring Malfoy by destroying his soul, and taking over his body. "Are you grateful?" spoke Voldemort.

Draco's voice spoke out clear and fell. "I am honoured my lord that you should have chosen to grace my body with your unrivalled spirit. Your magnanimity astounds me, and I bow before your magnificence." Harry wondered if he was the only one who heard the hint of irony. Then Draco sank to the ground, bowing his head before Voldemort. He was directly on a level with Harry, but not by so much as a glance did he display that he knew the other boy was there.

Voldemort walked closer, and stooped to touch Draco's head. "A worthy attitude child. I am proud of you and the example you set." The circle of black-clad figures leant closer breathlessly. It was one minute from midnight. From what Draco said, it took a minute to complete transference, and that if the transference was interrupted, Voldemort's essence would merely re-occupy his own ruined body and it would all be for nothing. There was no visible sign that transference was taking place. The air did not sparkle between them, there was no stream of golden fire pouring from Voldemort's body into Malfoy, and when at precisely the second midnight was struck and Harry said the word, there was no dramatics either. No spout of green flame, no agonized shriek of despair. Malfoy's eyes merely opened, and looked straight at Harry. He did not say anything as he fell to the ground, but Harry read gratitude and a strange kind of absolution in that glance. Malfoy was dead before he hit the ground.

The Death Eaters scattered in a frenzy, all except three. One grabbed the husk of Voldemort's body, and Apparated away with it, and two made their way straight to the fallen boy. Harry sensed no danger from them, they were both distraught with grief. The slightly shorter one's hood had fallen back, revealing silver blond hair. He had pressed his son to his heart, calling his name in a low broken tone as though he could not believe he was dead. The other man was kneeling, absolutely still. He seemed to sense Harry and turned. It was Severus Snape. Now more than ever, he was gaunt as a crow, clad in ragged black, and his eyes.. Harry didn't think he had ever seen eyes as much like pits of darkness before this moment. Grief, self recrimination and loss, lodged there. He ignored them both, and leaned over the body.

At the moment of his death, Draco Malfoy had been at peace. His face was not that of the spoiled potential of a child, who had persecuted so much of Harry's life, but closer to that of the man he could have become.

Hope you enjoyed that everyone . I have an epilogue planned, but won't post it, unless people feel there are loose ends that need to be tied up. Thanks for reading.

Reviews very welcome

A.W.