Chapter 1: The Unexpected Saviour.
In a dungeon, below a castle, in the middle of a vast forest, there sat a boy. Things were not going well for this boy. He sat on the ground with his back leaning against the cold stone wall. His bespectacled eyes were watching the stairs that anyone who visited his cell would have to use.
He had not been here long; at least, he did not think he had. Of course, he had been unconscious when he was brought to the dungeon, he did not have a watch or his wand, and there were no clocks or windows, so he had no way to tell exactly how long he actually had been here. He imagined that it felt longer than it actually was, so it could not have been that long.
No one had come to see him. He could tell there were at least two people, probably Death Eaters, guarding the door at the top of the stars from the other side, but they did not speak or enter. He only knew they were there because he could see their shadows moving in the torchlight that shone through the crack under the door.
The room was dark, only lit by two torches located on the wall furthest from his cell. There was nothing in the dungeon aside from the boy and some chains hanging from the walls. With a sigh, the boy once again tried to find a way out of his current situation, but as before, he could think of none.
Things certainly were not going well for this boy, but for Harry Potter, things rarely seemed to go well. He did not know how he had accomplished most of the things that he had, and did not even want to think about how he would accomplish the things that he must.
Once again, he wondered why he had decided to sneak away and try to do this on his own when h knew that he could not.
Because you are tired of putting the people around you in danger and you do not want anyone else to…
Harry forced the thought away. He knew where it would lead him and he did not want to think about that anymore.
Fortunately, he was offered a distraction from his thoughts, albeit an unwelcome one.
The shadows under the door shifted and remained, blocking the door from someone or something on the other side.
"Oh, it's just you," one of the guards spat out at the unknown arrival. "Haven't seen much of you lately, been getting more of what you deserve, have you?" his words were laced with malice and ridicule.
"Why are you here, traitor?" The other guard asked roughly. By the pause that followed, Harry guessed someone was answering, but he or she spoke too softly for him to hear what he or she was saying. The second guard spoke again. "Fine, but don't expect any help from us if he attacks you."
The first guard added, "And just you hope that we don't decide to lock you in there with him." Immediately following those words -before Harry or the unknown traitor could think- the door banged opened and the guards shoved the newcomer though roughly, before slamming the door closed behind them.
The visitor wore a long, dark cloak, with the hood up and their head turned down so his or her face remained hidden. Between the dim light and the cloak, Harry could not tell much about them, but the person was small for a Death Eater, and they were walking cautiously, as if it hurt to move too quickly.
Neither Harry nor his strange visitor spoke as the latter slowly made his or her way down the stairs and toward Harry's cell. The unidentified person stopped a few feet away from the bars that separated them. Harry did not stand; he knew he should be prepared to fight but this person did not seem to be a threat. The Death Eaters at the door had been cruel to this person and their tones and words suggested that he or she was not treated well among them.
For a moment, neither spoke nor moved. Both of their breaths came out as wisps of fog in the cold dungeon, and because of this, Harry could tell that the other persons breathing was quick and shallow, as though they were either in pain or scared, or possibly both under the circumstances. All Harry could make out beyond this was a pale, angular jaw, and thin, fair lips between the wisps of breath.
Finally, the person shifted their head as if listening for any sounds from the other side of the door -causing some white-blond hair to poke out of the hood- and then turned back to Harry as he lowered his hood with a shaky pale hand.
"Malfoy...?" Harry asked for two reasons. The first being plain shock at seeing his former schoolmate before him under the current circumstances. The second being that the boy in question looked different enough for Harry to feel the need to be sure he was indeed staring at Draco Malfoy.
Harry had thought the boy before him looked worn and gaunt during school last term. However, that description would have been an improvement to the way he looked now. He was even thinner and paler, which Harry had not thought possible, and his eyes appeared lost and defeated, with dark circles around them.
"Potter;" The word was not said with any trace of anger, ridicule, disgust, or any emotion that Harry would have expected under more normal conditions. Instead, it came out quietly, with a touch of sympathy and something that was too foreign coming from that mouth for Harry ever to hope to interpret correctly.
Draco -whom Harry noted was still moving tenderly- opened the door to Harry's cell and slipped in before closing it behind him quietly. He never turned his back on the green-eyed teen as he did this.
Harry stood up quickly and noticed that the silver-eyed teen startled for a second before quickly regaining his composure…or what seemed to pass for his composure at present. They stood at opposite sides of the cell, staring at one another, each looking for some sign of what the other intended to do.
Draco broke the silence first. "I'm not going to hurt you, Potter." He slipped a wand out of his robes just as Harry opened his mouth to retort. The raven-haired teen was deciding whether to ask questions or just lunge at the other boy, when he realized that the wand the blonde teen held was actually his own and that Draco was holding it so the handle was offered to it's rightful owner.
"What- Why are- Is this some kind of trick?" Harry could not wrap his head around what was happening. He knew that it could not be what it seemed. Draco Malfoy could not be helping him...that was absurd.
"Take it for what you will, but please, just take it." Draco was still speaking quietly, perhaps in an attempt to avoid alerting the guards to what he was doing, but those last two words had a pleading tone.
That tone, combined with the desperate look that briefly flashed in the boy's silver eyes, reminded Harry of a recent incident he had tried not to dwell on. He could not help but pity Draco on that occasion, and that feeling had never quite left Harry. It actually intensified now.
Harry crossed the cell and took his wand, instantly feeling less helpless. He noticed that Draco tensed up and shifted his eyes away, as though resigned for an attack.
The raven-haired boy lowered his wand, just as he had seen the broken boy before him do not long before. Uncertain silver eyes turned and rose to meet surprised green ones. "I'm not going to hurt you either, Malfoy, not unless you try something." Harry was not sure of what was going on, but he knew things had not been well for Draco either, and the other boy seemed to be helping him.
Snape had seemed helpful too...
Harry's thoughts snapped back to the present as the blonde boy nodded once in way of a response. Before the bespectacled teen could say or ask anything, the sounds of people yelling and running could be heard from the hall outside, coming closer at an alarming rate. Both boys had turned their heads to the door upon noticing the noise coming from the other side.
Draco's head snapped back to Harry. "You have to leave."
Harry turned to face him, momentarily forgetting his current situation. "Huh?"
"Leave. Quickly." Draco was speaking in a rushed whisper. "Can you Apparate?"
Someone was banging on the door loudly and shouting, "What; Why is this door sealed?!" Mere seconds later, the door was blown off its hinges and a few Death Eaters rushed in.
"Stupefy!" Draco took down the one in front before Harry even realized the other had drawn his wand. With a flick of his wrist, Draco placed one of the other Death Eater's in a full body bind, causing him to topple over. "Go!" He whispered to Harry desperately.
The green-eyed teen was not sure what brought him to do it -he did not even know if he could- he just knew he could not leave the other boy there. Without hesitation, he grabbed Draco's shoulder and Apparated.
Before Harry could take in the scent of fresh air, the feel of grass under his shoes, or the gentle rustling of the wind through the trees, instinct took control…for both of the teenagers, it seemed. As soon as they appeared, before they even assessed if they were whole, both boys spun around so that their backs were together, and both were scanning the surrounding area for threats, their wands held at the ready.
Certain that there were no Death Eaters -or people for that matter- around, Harry turned to face his former schoolmate and rival. He saw Draco lower his wand as he began to turn as well, but before he could face Harry completely, he collapsed onto his knees and doubled over, catching himself from falling on his face with one thin, shaky, and rather pale arm. Harry noticed that the blonde boy was trembling and that his breathing was just as shaky as it had been in the dungeon.
They remained like that for a moment before Draco raised his head and leaned back so that he was sitting on his heels. His eyes were closed and he was breathing deeply, as though trying to calm himself.
"Err…Are you okay, Malfoy?" Harry did not like the feelings of pity and sympathy that the other teen was causing to rise in him, but he had to do something if the other was seriously hurt, and the blonde boy certainly looked as though he were.
Silver eyes opened and looked at the raven-haired teen for a moment as though they had never seen him before, and Harry could not identify the emotion that Draco appeared to be feeling. Finally, the blonde spoke, but did not answer the question. "Why did you bring me with you?" Again, his voice sounded so foreign without its usual arrogance.
"Well…err…" Harry ran a hand through his hair, wondering why the same thing himself.
Because you couldn't just leave him there.
Refusing to listen to the voice of reason in his head, which sounded oddly like Hermione, Harry came up with a more practical answer…at least to him. "Well, you helped me escape, so I just figured I'd return the favour."
The other boy watched him for few more seconds before nodding slowly. Harry finally looked Draco over as well, noting a bruise that ghosted across his jaw, and heavier ones on his throat, as if it had been squeezed roughly. He also noticed that the blonde was holding his left forearm…and that blood was steadily dripping out of his left sleeve.
"Malfoy, you're hurt! Maybe you should-" Harry cut himself short, reminding himself that he was worrying about Malfoy. Even if he pushed his personal feelings aside and took him to a healer, it was not as if the boy could just walk into St Mungo's without serious repercussions.
There was only one option left and Harry was not sure if he wanted to suggest it. The Order would probably help, but he doubted he would be able to disappear as he had a couple of weeks ago. He actually did not know what the aftermath would be for either of them.
"I don't want a healer, if that's what you're thinking;" Draco cut off the raven-haired teen's thoughts, "And I doubt there's much that even you can do to help me now…"
Harry got the feeling that he was referring to more than just his physical injuries. Then, the silver-eyed teen spoke again and the world suddenly made even less sense than it had over the past few months. "Do you know about the Horcruxes?"
That, Harry had certainly not been expecting. For a moment, he just stared at the other boy blankly, unsure of how to respond. When his mind finally unfroze, it was filled with too many thoughts for him to acknowledge right away.
…Is this a trick? Maybe I should just leave…but he's hurt and he has only helped me so far. What does he know about them? Maybe I can find out without giving anything away.
"What about them?" Fortunately, Harry's voice had not caught up with his heart yet. It was therefore void of all the emotions he currently felt.
"Well, first, do you know what a Horcrux is, or should I explain?" Once again, the lack of superiority or contempt in Draco's voice was odd and Harry almost wished that he would make some sort of condescending remark just so something would feel normal again.
"I know what a Horcrux is." The green-eyed teen made his voice as level as he could.
"Good. V- Voldemort -has six. You need to destroy them before you can defeat him; I assume you know you're the one that has to do it? At least, that's what V-" The blonde teen seemed narked at himself as he rephrased, "What he thinks."
Harry blinked, remembered that he had to breathe, and then blinked again. He could not understand why Malfoy was telling him all of this. Moreover, he did not understand why Malfoy seemed even more terrified of saying Voldemort's name than most wizards did. Realizing that said boy was waiting for a response, Harry nodded; "Go on."
"One you already destroyed. I don't know much about it, other than it was a diary." The raven-haired teen was finally getting used to the lack of arrogance in Draco's tone, but the complete lack of any irritated, suspicious, or superior looks at his monosyllabic responses was unsettling.
Deciding not to look a gift horse in the mouth as it were, Harry just nodded. While he was surprised to hear that Draco did not know much about the diary and the events that surrounded it, he reasoned that the other boy's father probably never filled him in on most of his Death Eater activities. It would be a risk, and Lucius Malfoy had not stricken Harry as the honest or outspoken type.
"There is also the Slytherin locket. It was supposed to be hidden in a cave, but it was already gone when I got there-" Harry gasped at the knowledge that Draco had gone into that cave, which caused the silver-eyed teen to pause for a moment before continuing with questioning expression, "I don't think it was taken by anyone on V-Voldemort's side."
Harry was actually pleased to see some sort of expression on the until-now unreadable face of his former rival, but he wanted to hear all that the other boy had to say before deciding if he should give out any information himself. After all, he had not told anyone beside Ron and Hermione about the Horcruxes as of yet, and that meant that he had not told a lot of people that he trusted and liked much more than the boy whom he was currently having this discussion with.
He waved away the unspoken question; "Just keep going."
With a slow nod, Draco continued, his expression smoothing out again as he did so. "Besides those, there's the sword of Gryffindor; V-Voldemort's familiar -a snake called Nagini- as well as a ring that's supposed to be in the remains of an old wizarding family's house, the Gaunts; and the cup of Hufflepuff, which I'm fairly certain I've found the location of." The blonde paused there, looking apprehensive as he clearly waited for the other boy to offer some sort of response.
Harry decided it was his turn to speak. First, he needed a couple of questions answered; "Why are you telling me all of this? What do you expect to come of it?"
Draco released a shaky breath that Harry had not realized the other teenager had been holding. He supposed the blonde boy had not expected him to believe him.
The silver-eyed teen sounded slightly more at ease when he spoke again; "I'm telling you all of this because you need to know. What I expect is for you to destroy some of the Horcruxes, and then, when we've destroyed them all…well, as I've said, you have to be the one to end V- him."
Harry was floored. Of all the questions running through his mind, one seemed to be the most pertinent; "When we've destroyed them?"
"Yes. I cannot get them all by myself. The sword of Gryffindor is at Hogwarts, in the headmas-" Draco squeezed his eyes shut for second, before looking at the ground and continuing in a more subjugated tone, "It's in the headmistress' office. I can't go there. You can." He released a heavy sigh before meeting Harry's gaze again, "…And I don't know about you, but I've run out of people to trust."
"Why are you helping me?" Harry was not even sure when he decided that this was not all a lie. Maybe it was the sorrow and desperation in the other's voice; maybe it was that he knew how he felt to an extent. Whatever the reason, Harry somehow just knew it was true.
However, he still had not expected Draco's answer. The blonde's voice was soft and sad as he spoke, "Because V-Voldemort has to be stopped; this has to be stopped." He did not explain further. He did not have to.
This, Harry knew, was the fear, sorrow, anger, hatred, suffering, and loss…everything that Voldemort, his followers, and their war had brought. Everything that Harry currently saw reflected in the silver eyes that were staring into his green ones, no doubt seeing a similar reflection in them.
The raven-haired teen was surprised when the silence was broken, and even more so when he realized that it was himself speaking. "You went into that cave…alone?"
Draco blinked in surprise before nodding. "You…Dumb- You already knew about the Horcruxes? Did you find the locket then?"
Harry shook his head slowly. "I didn't know about the sword, or if Nagini was one for sure, and I don't know where to look for the others. Dumbledore found the ring last summer, and he destroyed the part of Voldemort's soul that was in it." Green eyes softened slightly at the other boy's barely noticeable start, "Don't worry; it's just a name. During school last year, he told me about the Horcruxes. Dumbledore, I mean. We went after the locket, but it was already gone. We had just come back when you…"
Silver eyes widened. "The second broom… You…" Draco's voice, barely audible to begin with, faded. Both boys simply stared at each other once more as an understanding passed between them. Then, clearly working at keeping his voice even, Draco asked, "How much?"
"The whole thing'" Harry was not sure if that would be a comfort or not, but it appeared to be a relief to the other boy.
Of course, who would want to retell that moment?
"I'm sorry." Every part of Draco's being screamed that those words, barely whispered, were the truth. "I'm so sorry."
"You should be." However, the anger that had flashed in Harry upon hearing the first apology faded at the second. He was still resentful, still hurt, still angry, but he felt so much else as well: pity, sympathy, understanding, hope, and a longing to move on. "But it wasn't entirely your fault."
Draco inhaled sharply as if Harry had struck him. He began to quaver anew, and he squeezed his eyes shut as he lowered his head once more. After taking a few shaky breaths, he raised his head and opened his eyes, fixing a determined stare on the other teen. "I'll go after the cup then. Will you get the sword?"
Harry knew that he could not do this alone, that he had been foolish to try…and by the looks of him, Draco would not last long on his own either. "Wait. If we're going to do this together, then let's do it together. You are in need of healing, whether you want it or not…"
Chapter 1 edited 7/29/09.
Disclaimer: I do not own any rights to Harry Potter, nor am I making any money from this work of fiction. Thank you.