A/N: We come to it at last, the final chapter of The Heir of the Founders. I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to review this fic, as it is by far generated the most response out of anything I've ever written in any fandom. I'll say more in the closing author's note, for now let's get to the final part.
Chapter 32: Fallout
Draco stood in the rising noontime sun, his hand beginning to shake violently with anger and nerves as he struggled to maintain the plethora of emotions that went through his mind. He lowered his arm slightly, and looked at his left forearm for a long time, seeing the dark mark branded there. In a rush of hatred, he sliced at his arm with his wand, effectively cutting off his left forearm and clutching the stump in great pain as he collapsed to his knees. Through veiled tears of agony he saw the pale flesh land with a gentle thud on the dirt ground below, the Dark Mark still writhing as it faded away into nothingness on the dying flesh. Shuddering with pain, he flicked his wand towards Hermione, causing the chains to disappear. With great effort she sat up, moving her wand to her half-open wound and muttering a few healing spells to cauterize the wound, before rushing over to Harry.
Harry merely lay on the ground, watching all of this take place with a dumbfounded look on his face. He staggered to his feet when he saw Hermione stutter-step her way over to where he was, and the two of them embraced each other fiercely, immensely relieved that the other one was alright. Draco maintained a blank expression on his face for several more seconds, before Hermione turned and looked at him. Slowly she walked over to him, causing him to stare up at her, seeing tears of gratitude in her eyes.
"Thank you," she whispered, placing her hands over Draco's bloody appendage and muttering a long, complicated string of words under her breath, causing Draco's arm to quickly grow back, with a bit more color than had been there before. Hermione moved away and Draco lifted his new arm up, moving his fingers around to make sure they worked, before standing up and staring at the ground.
"How…why…" Harry finally managed to say, looking back and forth between Hermione and Draco. "Why did he…"
"He was deceived," Hermione explained, quieting Harry's questions as the both looked at Draco who seemed to pay them no mind, so lost he was in his own thoughts. "Caliban tricked him into impersonating Colin." She paused, smiling a small bit, "I guessed that there was some good in him after all. It may have been something of Colin in there those 18 months, but he was still there too. Some of it had to be him."
Harry stood dumbfounded, "But…he's Malfoy! He's never shown a bit of concern for either one of us!"
"Maybe it was just part of the way he was raised. He never got a chance to change, never got a second chance at life. Maybe it was all he needed." She nudged him in the ribs, adding with a playful tone, "And if I was wrong I would have kicked his arse."
Draco seemed to smirk at this from behind their backs, and looked over his shoulder, merely adding, "I thought you were holding back." Harry merely shook his head, trying to allow some degree of levity into the moment, holding back a strong emotion at that point. Draco merely turned and stared at Caliban.
"I don't know if he told you this, but he's Voldemort's right hand. Without him, the Death Eaters are going to be hurting for quite a while. He was also Dumbledore's son." Hermione's mouth dropped while Harry simply nodded his head.
"He mentioned that," he calmly replied, and Draco nodded in return and turned away, looking to leave. "Wait!" Harry called back, causing Draco to stop in his tracks. "You can help us. You know Voldemort's secrets." Draco smiled, and closed his eyes.
"I'm already a marked man Potter," he said quietly, before turning back to him. "I've done my part. Anything you need to know you can find on your own. Besides…I don't have all my memories restored from the block he put on me. If I find anything important, I'll find you. But until then…don't go looking for me." He turned away for a second time, and let out a shuddered breath, before adding, "Tell Ginny everything. And tell her I'm sorry."
"So you're going to just walk away then?" Harry asked angrily. "You have just as much to fight for in this war!"
"And what exactly is that?" Draco mused in a condescending manner. "What do I have left to fight for other than petty revenge?" His countenance softened. "You two have each other. Weasley has Lovegood. I…"
"Have Ginny…" Hermione said quietly, and Draco lowered his head.
"Not anymore. She deserves better than me."
"Where will you go," Hermione asked, moving closer to Harry and effectively stopping him from saying anything else. "Like you said you're a marked man."
"I'm going to find my mother," Draco said calmly, "My birth mother. She's a muggle…and Caliban gave me her name and where he left her. I'm going to find her, and try and reconnect with a new life." On that note, he simply disapparated away, going off to wherever it is he felt he was needed. Harry and Hermione stared at the empty space where he stood.
"I don't trust him," Harry said finally, "But I hope he finds whatever he's looking for." He turned to Hermione, a few tears escaping his façade. "Never scare me like that again," he croaked, before hugging her as if his life depended on it once more. Hermione returned the hug with equal intensity.
"I could say the same about you," she said, sniffing away a few tears before they kissed each other deeply, enveloping themselves in each other's company. After a couple of seconds, they broke away and looked at the broken, dead husk that had once been Caliban de Montesquieu. "So," Hermione said sighing, "What do we do about him?"
Harry thought long and hard about the possibilities, the fact that he had almost lost Hermione weighing heavily on his mind. He had to end this, now, while he still had everything to live for. Before they got another chance. Never again, Harry promised himself. He would make the choice…the choice between what was right and what was easy.
"I know the best place for him," he said quietly, moving towards his fallen foe. "And it's in doing something we have to do."
/ - / - / - /
Fenrir Greyback stalked his way into the throne room of Lord Voldemort, uncertain as to why he had been called. He slowly swung open the doors, noticing the Dark Lord looking a bit disheveled as he held a broken stone in his hand. "Fenrir, come closer so I can get a good look at you," he quietly commanded, gesturing for him to move forward. Fenrir did as he was told.
"What is your bidding My Lord," Fenrir asked, bowing his head in a sign of respect.
"Do you know what this is?" Voldemort asked, showing a small malachite stone to the werewolf. Fenrir shook his head. "This was Caliban's life stone. The fact that it has been destroyed means only one thing…that Caliban is dead." Voldemort paused for a long time, his gaze intense. "Worse yet…he was betrayed by Draco Malfoy."
"Malfoy?" Fenrir asked in shock. "But I thought that he was…"
"Dead?" Voldemort added, finishing Fenrir's sentence, "No, Draco was merely a pawn in Caliban's chess game. The reason I know he has betrayed us is because of a spell Caliban placed on young Malfoy's person. Had Caliban been killed by Potter or any of his friends, Draco would have automatically portkeyed back here. The fact that it hasn't happened means that either Draco is dead as well or that Draco has killed Caliban. And since Draco's life stone is still intact, although his Dark Mark seems to have been destroyed somehow, I choose to believe the latter." His blood red eyes, which had drifted to be shut in the course of his tale, suddenly shot open, narrowing to razor-thin slits as he stared at Fenrir. "Find the young dragon," he commanded, "Bring him before me, so that I may show him pain that he has never even dreamed off in his wildest nightmares."
"It shall be done," Fenrir quickly said, taking his leave of Voldemort quickly before he himself was on the end of Voldemort's wrath.
Voldemort stood for a long time, staring at the broken stone. "You shall be avenged my friend. You shall be avenged."
/ - / - / - /
Dumbledore continued to grumble to himself as he tried to mull his way through copious amounts of needless paperwork. As he settled into a routine, he would startle himself occasionally as the hours ticked by on the large clock in his office and a chime broke his concentration. After what seemed to be several hours of this routine activity, he heard a small click on his door and glanced upwards. His eyes widened in surprise as he saw the two figures enter his office. "Harry," he whispered, genuinely shocked to see him entering his office.
"Professor," Harry said coldly, and for the first time Dumbledore noticed that Harry seemed to be carrying something, a large package if it could be described as such. To the naked eye it appeared to be nothing, but Dumbledore knew better, guessing that the package was actually contained underneath Harry's invisibility cloak. Glancing through the guise, he saw a large sheet wrapped around the bundle. As he traced the outline of said package, his eyes widened even further as to what it was.
"I see you can still see through invisibility cloaks," Harry flatly mused, setting his bundle down on the ground and removing the family heirloom. Out of the corner of his eye he caught a glimpse of Fawkes, staring intently at him as if pleading with him for some reason. Harry shook it off and turned his eyes back to the headmaster. Hermione stepped forward and waved her wand, causing the head of the blanketed bundle to unravel itself, and Dumbledore leaned over to see what it was.
He fell back in his chair when he saw the scarred face of his son, Caliban, staring up at him lifelessly. "How…what…" Dumbledore stammered, standing to his feet and rounding the desk, looking down with a mixture of sadness, spite & curiosity at his dead son's face.
"He tried to attack us," Harry explained, his voice still even, "He was…I killed him." Hermione turned her head and looked at the bold-faced lie from Harry, but let the matter rest for the moment. Dumbledore turned and looked at him, measuring him closely.
"You killed him," he asked, his voice dropping as the temperature in the room fell slightly.
"Yes," Harry replied, "In self-defense. But he mentioned that he was your son. I thought you should do what you will with his body." Dumbledore sighed and shook his head, staring at his son.
"Agamemnon was deceived by Tom Riddle," he craftily said, "May he find peace in the next life." He rounded his desk once more, a plan forming in his mind almost immediately. "I hope this reinforces the point I tried to make about your needed to be protected Harry."
"Save your speeches," Harry snapped back. "If you think this changes anything fundamental between us, you can forget it right now." Dumbledore nodded, his face not breaking its stoic mood. "The only thing it has brought to light," Harry continued, "Is that this war has to end, regardless of what I have to do to end it. If that means working with you to stop it, then so be it." Dumbledore smiled.
"I'm glad you've come to your senses Harry. Now if you'll just accompany me to a secure…"
"Don't even try to start manipulating me like you did before old man," Harry spat. "All I need from you is how to beat Voldemort. How did he survive all those years? How is he surviving now? What do I have to do to kill him?"
"Those are all viable questions Harry," Dumbledore replied, a twinkle returning to his eye that had been absent for quite a while. "In time, I will help you defeat him. After that," he sighed, "We'll let the fates decide that." Dumbledore stood up, offering his hand forward towards Harry. "Truce?"
Harry stared at Dumbledore's hand for a long while, trying to keep his anger in check. Letting out a deep sigh and glared straight at Dumbledore, grasping his hand firmly. "Truce."
/ - / - / - /
"And I believe that is the last of what we owe you."
Lazarus leaned back in his chair, moving the bag of galleons across the desk to the short figure in front of him. "Thank you for all of your assistance Haiden Orlock."
"It has been my pleasure sir," Orlock said, snapping his fingers and shrinking the gold so that he could place it in his breast pocket. "I was just merely fulfilling my duties two years ahead of schedule. Why you insisted on doing it now isn't my business at all, but I am the slightest bit curious."
"It's simply a matter of timing," Lazarus said, briefly taking a sip of golden liquid from a crystal goblet, "Nothing more needs to be said on the matter. But you're involvement in getting Potter to his inheritance sooner will hopefully pay dividends in the future. Now, if you will excuse me, I have a meeting to attend to Haiden." The Haiden Orlock nodded his head and scampered off the chair, moving towards the fireplace and disappearing into the emerald green flames. Lazarus smiled his toothless grin and turned his chair around, facing a rear door to his office which stood open, and a shadowed figure in billowing black robes standing in the doorway. "Janus," Lazarus greeted enthusiastically, "I was beginning to think you had forgotten about our meeting."
The figure scoffed and moved into the torchlight, his pale and sallow face revealed to be that of Severus Snape. "Must you use my codename in our meetings Lazarus?"
"Why not," Lazarus said smiling, disregarding the matter, "It's not as if you don't use mine." Snape cocked an eyebrow and took a seat in front of Lazarus, the afore mentioned wizard spinning back towards the front of his desk to face him. "What news do you bring me of Voldemort and the Order?"
"There has been a major happening," Snape said quietly, sipping a glass of brandy that appeared in his hand, "Caliban de Montesquieu is dead."
Lazarus blinked several times. "Albus' son?"
"Yes. Agamemnon." Lazarus sighed and stood up, walking with somewhat renewed vigor around his desk and taking a good long look at a small piece of parchment that was neatly tucked away in one of his many tomes.
"This is disconcerting," he said in a hushed tone, glancing deeply into the firelight. "Who killed him?" he asked, turning back to Snape.
"Potter has claimed it was him," Snape said in response, "But the Dark Lord is convinced that it was Draco Malfoy, Lucius' son, that did it. Voldemort has dispatched Fenrir Greyback to find Malfoy and bring him back." Lazarus nodded, moving further towards the fire. "To be honest I don't know how this is bad news Lazarus? Caliban was the Dark Lord's right hand…."
"And his conscience…" Lazarus said sighing, cutting off Snape. "For all the evil of Caliban de Montesquieu, he was the lesser of two. Tom Riddle has known nothing but pain and deception. The one love he knew he sacrificed as a means to an end, just as Albus did all those years ago. Caliban was the last surviving link to his sanity, and without him, I fear the worst." Lazarus rounded back to his chair and stroked his chin, deep in thought. "Things are moving along far faster than I anticipated. It seems that we know even less of the prophecy than we first thought." He turned his gaze back to Snape. "There's more isn't there?"
"Potter and Dumbledore have formed a…tentative alliance…to destroy the Dark Lord and the source of his immortality." Lazarus smiled, chuckling to himself, "What's so funny?"
"It's nothing," Lazarus said mysteriously, "Just the craftiness of that old codger has to be admired. Don't worry yourself about it." Severus was about to say something, when he felt a pinprick in the back of his mind and a great flash of light. Momentarily confused, he listened as Lazarus seemed to finish his debriefing. "Continue to report on any suspicious activities Janus." He said, and Snape nodded his head. He finished his brandy, and stalked his way out of the office.
The firelight danced off of Lazarus' eyes as he had a far away gaze in his eyes. "I will not forget the promise I made to you my master," he said to no one in the darkness, "I will not fail you or your heir." He closed his eyes and smiled to himself, "I cannot fail."
A/N: Another mysterious note to end this arc, wrapping some things up and leaving some degree of questions left. I promise you all of this and more will be addressed in the coming fic "The Heir of LeFey."
As a taste of things to come: We will be checking in periodically with Draco and his search for his mother. Ginny's reaction to Draco's true identity will shake her faith…but may drive her to another. Harry & Hermione WILL get married towards the beginning of the next fic, and the hunt for Voldemort's immortality will begin. Furthermore we'll explore why Dolohov is hunting down ancient wizards for said Dark Lord. Remus and the rest of Harry's friends have significant points of interest in the next story as well.
Finally, I want to thank each and every one of you who have made this a wonderful experience for me. I have never received a response to a story like this one has generated, and seeing the reactions that it garners makes every suffrage of writer's block worth it in spades. I hope you have enjoyed this as much I have enjoyed writing it, and it won't be too long until the Heir of LeFey, the second part of the "Heirs" trilogy follows.
Peace and Love,