Chapter 9: The Truth, Nothing But the Truth... well...
It was shocking, at first, to see wordless, wandless magic from Harry, but she soon got over it.
So soon, in fact, that only a second later her own wand was in her hand and pointed at the boy.
Her spell hit Harry and he twitched, but otherwise was unaffected. She was about to start casting any and all of her other spells before Harry merely put his hand out and her wand was suddenly in his hand, not hers. For a moment she was tempted to make a run for it, but knew she wouldn't get a few feet away before he got her.
"Please, Luna. Have a seat. I know that this is shocking, but try to trust me for a few minutes. I promise… the truth."
Luna hadn't sat into the chair that he had transfigured from the earth moments before, but upon realizing that she currently had no other options and her curiosity was only getting worse, she took her seat. She sat as rigid as someone who had been petrified with the spell she herself had cast only moments before. The boy, if that was truly what was in front of her, just smiled a sad little smile. If Luna didn't know that it was impossible, or at least highly unlikely, for Harry Potter, or any human for that matter, to have learned such magic at his age, she might have thought that her spell had hurt his feelings.
I knew it was too good to be true. Now I'm trapped in the forest with someone who is probably pretending to be Harry Potter and who is insanely powerful. He probably killed Harry and took his place over the summer. I wonder how no one noticed…
Luna couldn't control the feeling of intense sadness that ran through her at that thought. The pieces fit all too well. For some reason this person wanted her for something and decided to approach her in the disguise of a boy she knew. Tried to woo her. And then trap her. It all made sense now, kind of. All the friendship, talks, the invitation to the ball…
"What?" She surprised herself at the anger in her voice.
Luna reached up to her face with a jerk. Yes, she was crying. And she knew exactly why. Logic, or at least her own self-depreciating logic, said that the thing in front of her killed Harry Potter, a boy she never met and who never had feelings for her, and was trying to get to her for some reason that was beyond her reasoning. No one had become a new friend. No one had invited her to the ball. No one sat and talked with her in the morning before sunrise, or when she didn't want to study amongst the bullies in her house. It was a ruse, which is how he knew the hot chocolate recipe, all of the mythical creatures she talked about, and her morning rituals involving songs. Now why he wanted to play these games with her, she didn't have a clue.
The more she thought about this, the more tears ran down her face. But her expression never changed. All that the "Harry" in front of her would see was a neutral face, streaked with tears.
"What do you want from me?"
The "Harry" in front of her just looked at her. His mouth was slightly open, like he was shocked at her question or behavior. What did he care? He was finally going to reveal himself and probably kidnap her for ransom. Good luck with getting anything, her father wasn't wealthy in the least.
"I… Luna, I…"
He couldn't speak. It would have been almost comical if a hundred different death scenes of the Harry Potter she never knew would have stopped going through her head. Maybe this Harry had only recently replaced the real Harry Potter… but she knew that was merely wishful thinking that he would have even wanted to be her friend. She mentally frowned at herself for even considering it 'wishful thinking' that Harry Potter's death had come after he had become her friend. He was dead, and that was that.
"I want… I want you to listen to me, OK? I just want you to sit and listen." The fake-Harry appeared to almost choke back tears of his own. He was a good actor. "You have questions, I have answers."
"Then tell me who you are."
He looked shocked again.
"I am! Look, here's that stupid lightning scar!"
"Easy to fake."
He pulled his robe sleeve up to show a circle patch of white skin near his shoulder.
"My wand, I would never let someone else use my wand."
"Unless you were dead."
He froze at that. She knew she had hit it right on the nose. But instead of giving up the charade he looked about ready to toss his dinner.
"I… I'm really me."
"You are not Harry Potter. There is no way he would be able to do what you do, what you just did."
"What if I had special training?"
"Unlikely, and that's still too much ability someone our age even with years of training, no matter how intense. No one but the most powerful wizards can do silent wandless magic, and certainly not something as complex as transfigurations."
"How can I convince you that I am who I am?"
She didn't respond. She honestly didn't know. The person in front of her breathed a heavy sigh.
"Look, let's set that question aside for a moment. We can come back to it. First, let me explain to you two very important things."
"One, I'm not here to… hurt you." He choked out that last sentence. "Two, you are in very grave danger."
"I'm not sure I believe the first one, and the second became brutally obvious when you created my seat."
The almost-Harry gave a half smile at that.
"Not from me, Luna. Never from me. But someone out there really has it out for you. Luna, who do you know who could get close to you and perform a few hours long ritual on you without you noticing?"
Luna just stared at him. What an odd question from someone who likely killed Harry Potter. She was tempted to remain silent, but that would get her nowhere.
"I… I don't know. What kind of ritual?"
"Charms, but difficult ones. Here, I'll show you." And with a wave of his hand, the pseudo-Harry caused her vision to go crazy. Instantly the world become more than it was. Colors drifted in and out of every living thing around her. The boy in front of her shined a calming dandelion yellow except his scar which was a sick dark green, while the thestrals oozed a dull maroon. It took her a moment to get used to it, but she understood immediately what she was seeing.
"I can see magic?"
"Yes, but what you need to see is not me, but this."
He once again demonstrated amazing transfiguration abilities without a wand or even words as a full body sized mirror rose from the forest floor and she saw herself.
She wasn't quite sure what she was looking at, in all honesty, or what it was supposed to look like. She wasn't like the fake-Harry, or the thestrals, or the trees. They all had mostly solid colors, normal colors. Her aura was wavering and sickly. Wisps of neon green magic looked like they were squeezed out of his magic. She looked completely different than the fake-Harry or the thestrals. Her's was also dotted with some strange designs. Some designs were small, like the blue spiral on her ankle. Some designs were larger, like one on the side of her ribs that was a blood red in the shape of an 'X'. She saw a few that looked similar, but most were different colors and different purposed. She gave an involuntary shiver.
"Did you do this to me?"
The "Harry" in front of her looked startled, he was getting good at that expression, before waving his hands to exaggerate his next point.
"NO! Never! I would never do this to anyone!"
She didn't know whether to believe that, but he still sounded sincere. He was good at that, too.
"What are they?
"Four spells are affecting your magic. Now, one is actually a good thing…"
"The blue spiral."
"How did you know?"
"It looks soothing."
"It should. If my guess is correct, than your father was the one who applied it to you. It looks to be many years old and its only purpose is as a general, but not specific, tracking charm. My guess is that it would let him know if you had serious health issues. Your dad is trying to help keep you safe in his own way."
Luna didn't know what to think about that, but she decided to think about it later when she wasn't in a forest with someone who was growing more confusing by the moment. When she didn't mention anything but continued to look in the mirror, the person continued.
"Those two 'X' marks, the red and the brown, are weak and inexperienced charms intended to disorient or cause mild lack of muscle coordination. These are the least of your worries, as they hardly affect you and can be easily removed. They could have been applied any time in the last 2 years, and by anyone. Possibly by some of our classmates."
He just kept talking, pointing to the mirror to show the spots he was talking about.
"There were two more tracking charms from unknown sources. I assume that at least one was the one our teacher was using to track us in the maze today. Why? Probably because we have been spending a lot of time together and he thought I might notice it on myself."
"What about the green? It doesn't seem natural."
The Harry look-alike instantly changed from downcast to angry. It didn't seem directed at her, but it was still rather intimidating.
"The green charm is illegal. That is what I want to know about. It's a magic leech charm, used ages ago in order to suppress magic power of anyone you didn't like. Specifically used on half-blood slaves before that form of slavery was made illegal. Not only does it suppress magic, it leeches it off and transfers it to the charmer. It takes a skilled hand to apply, but once it's on it doesn't come off unless the counter charm is done. Long term effects include causing people to become squibs, which is what made it illegal in the first place."
Luna was shocked. If he was telling the truth, and he could be, than she was in grave danger. Before she could look more at it the magic sight went away and instead of the glowing girl with many interesting shapes and colors around her she was looking in a mirror at a dirty blonde haired girl with tear streaks down her face that had still not completely stopped. And as she saw them and felt them with her hand she remembered why they were there and the tears continued unabated.
"If what you say is true, what can I do?"
"Let me remove them."
"I can't trust you."
"Luna… your father's name is Xenophilius. You live in a house shaped like a rook near the Weasleys. You enjoy the outdoors, exploration…"
"Anyone could find those things out."
"…your mother died in front of you when you were nine years old while she was experimenting on a new spell involving channeling electrical impulses between people so as to share thoughts, but no one besides a few people know because she was doing it as an unspeakable. Something went wrong with her test and her brain stopped functioning altogether and she was pronounced dead upon reaching the hospital. You knelt by her side and tried to wake her up for hours afterwards until they had to tear you away from her so they could take the body to prepare it for burial. When they did that you managed to rip a piece of the robe she had been wearing off, which you carefully and magically preserved and carry on your person at all times. It's a light grey, solid researcher's fabric that you've long worn smooth by careful yet constant handling."
Her eyes had stopped crying, if only to have gone wide in complete shock. No one knew that! Her father didn't know, the doctors didn't know. No one had seen it except her, and only in the safety of her room at home at night. It was the single most precious item she owned. But no one should know it existed.
"You want to ask me how I know this. The answer is simple. You told me."
He looked strangely about as confused as she felt.
"I am Harry Potter. The real Harry Potter. But I had… and experience on the train ride here this year. You remember."
"Yes, I remember. It's how we met. You were having problems with your magic core."
"It was the first time you had met me, but it wasn't the first time I had met you."
"What are you saying?"
"I'm saying…" He paused and looked up to the branches. The sun was beginning to set. "I'm saying that I had a sort of out-of-body experience. It was very weird. I saw things, and heard things, and felt things I had never felt before. I couldn't even begin to describe it. Visions of the past, the future, alternate pasts and futures and presents. Professor Dumbledore and I are still trying to figure it all out. Spells and abilities that I shouldn't know, don't know, suddenly appear out of my mind like a burst of inspiration. Maybe it is. But I sometimes remember things, too. Memories, I think, of other Harrys. Other mes. I know you. I knew you. I will know you. Sometime in some future you told me these things. I met you in that train for the first time, but also not the first time."
She was silent for a moment. If it was true, and that was a large 'if', then that would explain an awful lot.
"So is that why you are letting me hang around you? Pity, because of my past?"
"NO! God damn it all! Stop putting yourself down! I don't pity you. I don't feel sorry for you. I empathize with you. Lest you forget, you aren't the only one who can see the thestrals!"
Luna was out of her seat now.
"You don't remember! You weren't old enough!"
"I remember everything afterwards! I remember living with my ogre of an uncle and my witch, no offense, of an aunt. I remember being told over and over again that I was scum and my parents were scum who deserved to die! I remember living!"
"So you think you had it worse than me?"
"WE ARE NOT COMPARING OUR PARENT'S DEATHS!"
Silence. Luna and Harry took a small step back. Their argument had brought them to the point of yelling in each others faces. Harry sat down in his chair roughly. The thestrals were all on the other side of the nesting area now, disconcerted by the two teens venting their anger, confusion, and frustration.
"Look… Luna. I'm not who I once was. I admit that. But I am who I am now. I made a decision months ago that I wanted us to be friends, and it had nothing to do with your past. I knew you were a good person…"
Luna had placed her hand over her mouth following their yelling match, the first she had ever taken part in, in horror at what she had said to the boy. She barely managed a weak reply.
"I think I just proved that I am not a good person, Harry."
He chuckled a bit.
"Luna, you are without a doubt one of the most 'good' people there is. A few minutes ago you probably though I had killed the real Harry Potter and hidden his body somewhere, probably before we even met. Before that, you thought I was a new friend, I hope. I'm sorry for yelling, and I know you didn't mean it, either."
She nodded emphatically. She couldn't grasp it all right now, but he was right. Not once had he hurt her. Not once had he been anything but kind to her. Her paranoia was just that, based off of her own lack of self-worth. But, try as she might, she couldn't speak without choking back tears.
Again, the boy-with-pretty-eyes (even if he wasn't Harry Potter), knew exactly what she needed. A moment later and he was embracing her as they stood. She cried into his shoulder, not knowing what to do. First he's dead, then he's not, then he sees the future, then she has charms on her, then he wants to take them off…
Luna just wanted to go to sleep and hope this evening was just a dream. Instead she just continued to silently weep into the shoulder of the boy holding her.
"Luna, I wasn't lying when I said I wanted you to go with me to the yule ball. You are an amazing person. Not to mention being able to hold up those seals without showing signs. I didn't even notice until I checked while we were hiding today."
Luna had managed to barely control her crying after a few minutes, so she was able to respond.
"Was that… when your magic lost control?"
"Yeah, seeing that seal really got me angry."
Angry because he wanted me safe?
"The others might not be as bad, but I couldn't control my anger when I saw them all. I don't really like to believe that there are at least three incredibly stupid people around Hogwarts who would purposefully sabotage your career as a witch."
He's defending me.
"If I am Harry," he said with a chuckle.
She had to snicker at that, too. A few minutes ago she had been sure he was at least a murder, but this was Harry. It felt like Harry. And even if this was a Harry imposter, it was the boy that was her friend.
"If you are Harry, what would it take to get these seals off of me."
"Honestly, not much. I could do it now with a few minutes. Counter charms are much easier and faster to perform than complex charms."
He raised an eyebrow at her.
True to his promise, the sun was almost set and the air was getting very cool when the boy that would be Harry stopped waving his wand around her and activated magic sight on her again to show the changes.
Her magic flowed unhindered now, a bright lilac color that was surging after being restrained for so long. She felt amazing.
Luna bounced up and down on her toes as smiled into the mirror. The blue spiral remained on her ankle, but every other blemish was gone.
"How do you feel?"
Luna spun around once just to feel the freedom. How had she missed this? Is this how everyone always felt? It was like she had been suffering from a permanent state of congestion and allergies, but was suddenly cured.
"I feel good."
But she couldn't let this boy know that yet. She still wasn't buying all of his story.
"Good. You should practice some magic before you go firing any more spells at people." Harry tossed her wand to her. "You might find the results slightly stronger than normal."
Barely any effort on her part produced a bright light from the tip of her wand. Luna was a little startled, as she was only going for a weak light.
Harry Potter gave a tired smile. What had just transpired had been most likely the single most nerve wracking moment of his two lives. If he hadn't guessed what spell Luna had been about to fire when he had seen her hand moving towards her wand, he would still be on the ground frozen stiff, unable to even do wandless magic with Luna's spell affecting him. He had not been expecting her to nearly break down, and he had really not expected her to reach the conclusion that he was an imposter.
Granted, in hindsight, he was an 'imposter' in a way. And she was logical to assume so.
He had barely managed to pull the whole 'soul trip' thing out in an effective lie. He was almost sure that she would accept it after a while, even if she didn't fully believe him now. It was true, in a way. A half-truth, if there was such a thing.
He had nearly lost the one thing he couldn't lose again. He watched her as her smile widened and she seemed to return to her old self. He had been thoroughly frightened when she had suddenly gone from her normal, dreamy and beautiful, self to a neutral faced stranger. But if he had to guess, she had probably used that face once before in the years immediately following her mother's death.
It was now unofficially Harry's ultimate goal to never let that face come over Luna's features again.
"Harry, to be honest, I feel great. I mean, better than great! I can't describe it."
"Your magic is free. You aren't going to be levitating castles with Wingardium Leviosa, but you should feel stronger."
"Not as strong as you?"
Harry shrugged. He hadn't expected tonight to ever need to happen, and now that it had played out he was certain that there must have been a better way. In one small period of time he had nearly destroyed Luna's trust in him, which he had known was already a fragile thing. It was just a large amount of luck, and a story Luna had told him when they had been very close friends and talking about their parents, that had saved not only their budding friendship, but his chances at a normal life in this life…
If he could beat Voldemort.
"What is strength? Who is strong? Strength means nothing unless the person behind that strength has knowledge and wisdom."
"Spoken like a true Ravenclaw."
Luna gave a small smile to him. It wasn't a large or as meaningful as some of the others that he had seen her give, but it was a real smile. Harry Potter smiled back.
Well, it could have gone a lot worse, I guess.
"The hat didn't offer that choice. He said I could be a snake or a lion. Honestly, sometimes I wonder if I should have picked Slitherin."
"I'm glad you didn't. You'd more likely than not turned out like Malfoy."
Harry had a burning desire to both laugh and frown at that comment. Malfoy hadn't 'turned out' well in his last life. For very good reasons.
"Maybe, but I like to think that I could have overcome their influence." With a flick of his hand he removed any traces of their visit to the forest. He held his hand out to Luna in hopes that she would take it.
He may have missed the small blush that came to her face when their skin made contact if he hadn't have been looking for it. He had missed these things last time. He had been so focused on himself this year, his friendship troubles and surviving the hatred at school, and the next few years with trying to rouse public knowledge about Voldemort. He didn't have the time to see the people outside his main focus.
And he had missed out.
Harry reached into his pocket and pulled out a small scroll as they walked back to the castle. Unrolling it, he showed Luna a large single symbol on the page glowing an eerie green.
"Luna, this is a rune."
She looked at him like he was telling her the sky was blue. He almost slapped himself. Of course she knew what a rune was.
"What kind of rune?"
"Well, it is kind of like… a proximity rune. But I made this out of the charm that was constraining your magic."
Her eyes went wide for a moment before looking at the rune again.
"So this will tell me who put that ghastly charm on me?"
"No, but if they get within three meters of you, the scroll will begin to vibrate. If it does, don't let on that you know. It's not that I don't trust you to handle yourself…"
"Yes! Well, mostly… I trust you, I don't trust some people around you. Malfoy, for one. But it's more important than that. We are talking about someone who was willing to commit a crime worthy of the dementor's kiss against you. They have probably figured out already that their charm has been removed, so they might try it again, or do something worse. Let me know, or Dumbledore. I'll let him know about it. They can't get away with doing that to you, but I'm more afraid of what they plan on doing now that it failed."
"I'll be careful."
Harry smiled at her.
"I know, just make sure you stay in public areas."
"Do you think you could teach me that spell you did on my eyes?"
"The magic sight? Sure, the incantation is rather simple…"
The first half of the year was quickly coming to a close. Snow covered the Hogwarts grounds like a thick white blanket that was only broken by the tracks of students. With the approach of Yule time came the approach of what to some was a time to be feared, and to others was a time to be excited for.
But for most, it was a time for both.
The Yule Ball was coming.
In the short weeks after Harry's revelation to Luna, Harry busily prepared for what would be the most important night of his life.
And the return of Voldemort, but his priorities were skewed slightly towards a pretty, young blonde rather than an old, ugly snake. It was his ultimate goal, after all, to just live a happy life. Voldemort wasn't a goal, he was an obstacle to that goal.
Whenever he had that thought it would make Harry stop in his tracks. Just a few months ago he had been fighting against the Snake and his followers and that had been his goal. More than a goal, actually. It had been his meaning to exist, after so many of his friends had been taken from him violently. Now, with his friends alive and healthy, and no constant fear of losing more people he was honestly at peace.
This thought had hit him while fake-studying one day and he had stopped in mid page turn.
Should I really be doing it this way? Playing along as if everything is going to be fine? If I allow Voldemort to be set loose into the world again because I have gotten sloppy, how could I forgive myself?
Would it be better to just tell Dumbledore I'm leaving and go out right now to find and kill the rat and then get Lucius and make sure that Azkaban is filled with the dead, not the insane? This isn't a game. This is the most important thing that could be done for the future of the world in the coming years. So many will die if I fail again.
He had stood up and slammed his book shut and stormed out of the common room, startling many of the others that had been around. He walked as if he was a man with a mission as he headed towards nowhere in particular.
Am I playing with the lives of thousands so that I might be able to fake living like a kid again? I'm not the person I was. There is more at stake than a stupid quiddich cup or house points or a triwizard cup. I've lived for years on the edge and it made me strong. Will I lose my edge in this comfort? I've smiled more in the past week than I did in the final few years of the war combined.
Harry was glad that wherever he was in Hogwarts was empty. With a quick turn he went into the next doorway, and finding an abandoned class room, went to town.
A flick of his wand and the desks and chairs had become death eater shaped targets against the far wall. A single calming breath filled his body and was half released when his wand came up into a dueling posture.
The spell left his wand like a cannon ball and blew the wooden target into dust, leaving a crater in the stone wall behind it. It was a simple spell, one of his most often cast for its simplicity and lethality. He could cast them silently as well, but with a wand and his voice the power was unmatched. Before the stone fragments hit the ground Harry had already begun his next spell. Some of his spells required a small incantation to cast and could not be cast silently or wandlessly. These were the most ancient and most powerful. Obtained from lost libraries that Harry had sought out and found the previous time for an edge on Voldemort.
"Fire of the Sun-Born Wyrm, I call upon thee. Cinder."
Out of his wand came a ball of red light that moved slower than a reducto, but still fast enough it would be nearly impossible to dodge. The target did nothing for a moment as the spell hit it, but after a few seconds the wood showed signs of burn marks on the exterior and a few seconds later it burst into flame. The spell was meant to cause an unquenchable spontaneous combustion a set amount of time after being hit with the spell. Once it hit the person, short of Harry cancelling with a counter spell he invented, they would be burned to ash ten seconds after it activated, which could be any time from a second to a few days later.
But it had been too slow for Voldemort, who had not given him enough time for such a long casting incantation.
The last target was quickly encased in a block of ice from the ground up. A silent reducto later and the statue was in pieces.
Harry waved his wand to repair and reorder the room and sat down on the floor where he was.
Who am I? Am I the leader from the war, who led the survivors in a desperate struggle for freedom and life against an all-powerful tyrant? Or am I a 16 year old boy who happens to remember what hasn't happened yet, is developing a relationship with a girl, and is trying to last through school. Can I be happy and enjoy what time I have, or should I be waiting to do that until this is all done?
Harry's mind drifted along these paths of doubt and self-examination, but his mind always came back to one thought.
Why am I here? Wasn't it so I could be with my friends? I said it was to save them, but they aren't currently in danger. I want to be with my friends, to live long happy lives with my friends. Screw Voldemort, he's just in my way this time. Last time he shattered my dreams, this time I plan on destroying his.
Harry jumped to his feet and left the room. The light coming in the windows showed that it was already way past dinner and probably past curfew. He smiled at that. There wasn't any reason to not smile. Life was good, and it was going to stay that way. There wasn't any reason to think differently.
Luna Lovegood smiled lazily at the ceiling of the Great Hall. It was breakfast again, another day of life had begun. A few of her house mates would cautiously glance her way every so often. She knew they were likely wondering why her smile was a little less dreamy than usual. She had been asking herself the same question every so often and had come up with multiple reasons.
The first was that she was no longer bound by some type of curse. She had been doing better, even though she had already been good, in all of her magic related classes. It was like a weight was lifted off her shoulders.
The second was that she was that she had actually been having conversations with more people than just Ginny and now Harry. Ron and Hermione had both gone out of their way to say hello and even ask about her classes and other things. And not a word was out of spite. Ron had been a little awkward at first, but he soon realized Luna was just a quiet girl more than anything.
The last reason was the least likely, in her own opinion. In less than a week she would be going to the Yule Ball with a boy. A boy who was weird and crazy and who cared about her enough to become furious in anger when someone did something wrong to her.
Weird, crazy, and powerful.
A little mental note was added for her own benefit. No one else knew anything about Harry except that he was, supposedly, rich and good at quiditch. Only a few of his close friends knew him as a person.
Luna blushed a little as she continued to stare at the ceiling, knowing that she was among those few.
It was a good feeling, and one she was growing to accept with more ease by the day.
With an ever so quick glance to her side she was able to catch sight of the object of her current thoughts. Harry was apparently switching back and forth between relishing his food and listening to Ron and Nevile. She could only guess why Hermione wasn't with them. She had to glance the other direction to find Hermione sitting with Ginny at the other end of the table.
As a matter of fact, it seemed like a large portion of the hall was sitting in separate gender groups. Only a few couples sat at any of the tables.
I must have missed the memo. Either that, or people are starting to get nervous about the Yule Ball. Harry seemed to be one of the earliest ones to ask someone. I wonder if there are still people waiting to be asked.
A quick glance towards Gryffindor table told here all she needed to know about that. Secret glances were being thrown across gender gaps, trying to see if the person of their affection was taken or was still unattended. There were quite a few glances from the female sides of tables towards the direction of Durmstrang's tables, just as a lot of boys were glancing towards the Beauxbatons table.
With a sigh, Luna popped a tart in her mouth. Any other year, she would have ignored this phenomenon. After all, she had no one she would want to go with and no one would have wanted her.
Past tense, would have wanted. Now I have someone that wants to go. And, in all honesty, I want to go with him, too.
She sent her own secretive glace towards the object of her current thoughts, and was startled to find he had snuck his own look. He was looking right at her with a silly grin on his face as the mash he had in his spoon slid out and onto his lap with a plop. He gave a small yelp before banishing and cleaning his garment with exaggerated wand gestures as his friends laughed.
Luna gave a small laugh herself before realizing that she still had the tart in her mouth and probably looked crazy with the wider-than-her-mouth tart half in and half out of her mouth. She quickly bit, chewed, and swallowed. Maybe this was affecting her more than she thought.
Finally, after three months of chasing the bastard, Harry Potter stood only a few dozen feet from his target. It hadn't been easy, getting here. After missing his target the first few times by only a few seconds, this time he had come prepared.
They stood in the ruins of Hogsmeade, not too far away from the Shrieking Shack. Draco was probably only starting to figure out the trap Harry had set for him. The traitorous scum was now one of the top death eaters, promoted after the murder of Sirius Black, and had been put in charge of hit-and-runs on the Order of the Phoenix. It had been a gamble, but they had used one of their new hideouts in the ruins of the village, and some high ranking Order members, as bait.
It had finally worked.
Draco had led his death eaters to the back door he had been informed about as an Order member, blown the whole wall apart… only to find that the inside was completely empty.
But it was already too late, he had activated Harry's wards.
Following the death of Sirius, Harry had devoted himself to the war as never before, studying every magic he got his hands on. And three months later he had a very firm grasp on runes and their uses.
For example, the building Draco attacked was at the center of a mile radius anti-portkey, anti-apparition ward. Not only could it not be done, but an attempt to activate a port-key would cause a violent explosion. Apparition would be… messy.
Still, Harry was pleased to watch from his hiding place as two of Draco's two dozen men tried portkeys and the ensuing explosions either killed or at least removed another 5 from play.
Draco quickly rallied his remaining troops and made sure no one tried it again. Harry was both disappointed and excited.
He had really been hoping Draco wouldn't try the apparition or portkey.
This was personal.
He stayed in hiding, waiting to give the signal for his team to strike. Remus, Tonks, Hermione, Susan Bones, Nevile, and even Luna were all in hiding waiting to attack. If Harry knew Draco, his next move would be…
"Everyone scatter! Don't apparate until you get at least outside of town. You four, with me!"
Harry waved his wand and fired a bright spark into the air. It was the signal. The other members of his team, in groups of two, would know that death eaters were on the way. Harry had already anticipated the most likely paths of escape, even directed the death eaters by making certain routes very easy and others very hard. Harry was waiting along the easiest, quickest, route out of town.
The route Draco obviously chose for his group of five.
Harry gripped his wand firmly in his hand and waited for Draco get closer. They were sprinting frantically, knowing a trap had been sprung but not knowing if there was more to it.
And Harry was ready.
A silent activation spell on the rumble strewn in the road as the Draco's first guard past over it was the beginning.
An explosion blew the death eater into the air in pieces and knocked the four behind, including Draco, to the ground.
A high pressure wave came out of his wand and knocked the death eaters back even further. It was a simple matter for Harry to stupefy the three remaining death eaters, each suffering from broken eardrums by the looks of the blood coming out their ears.
Only Draco was left. He had barely had enough time for a powerful defensive spell right when Harry cast his air explosion spell. He was on his feet and running back the way he came before Harry was had stunned the last of his body guards.
"Run as fast of you can, Malfoy. I don't want this to be over quick."
Harry knew that with his own control over magic, he could easily out run the blonde haired scum. Instead, he calmly jogged behind, just keeping pace with Draco's own sprinting.
Which didn't last long. Draco spun, panting, and was surprised to see that Harry was the same distance away and not breathing hard at all.
"What's the matter Malfoy? Don't purebloods exercise? I would have thought you would have been faster…"
Harry dodged the telegraphed spell with ease. Even Luna could cast that spell better than Draco, though she could never mean it enough to kill. Draco obviously did mean it, as the slow moving green light struck the ruined house behind him and blew a hole clean through it.
Harry's body bind easily hit its target, causing Draco to collapse to the ground frozen. He finally had the little rat in his grasp. The traitor, the Iscariot, the low life that had nearly cost dozens of innocent's their lives and ended by planning the death of his godfather. And yet… he couldn't just kill him as he lay there, completely helpless. Maybe they would find a better use for him through interrogation…
Harry Potter spun to see Hermione just coming around the bend. This was completely unexpected, the plan had been to eliminate all, or as much as was safe, of the fleeing death eaters and then immediately use the coded portkeys Harry had aligned with his wards to go back to the current main Order hideout.
"Hermione, we're all done here. Go back to base, I'll meet you there."
Harry only caught the look on her face as she came up close. Something had happened, something was wrong, someone…
"What is it? What happened? Who…"
"Susan. She thought he was dead, turned her back and took a piercing hex through the heart."
Harry just stared at her in shock. This had been his mission, his plan. He could have brought more, but refused. He could have made it quick and clean, with a massive explosion when the trap had been sprung, he had wanted this to be personal.
And now it was.
And it was Harry Potter's fault that his friend was dead.
Now, if Harry had been older, more mature, or maybe if he had been more logical and less emotional about the whole thing. Maybe if Harry Potter hadn't seen his godfather murdered brutally. Maybe if he had experienced death under his command earlier. Maybe what happened next wouldn't have happened.
But he would never regret it.
With a flick of his wand Draco was on his own feet, wand in hand, and no longer under Harry's body bind. He looked frightened. Hermione would never tell Harry, but he knew in his heart that what he did next frightened her, too.
"Death is too good for the likes of you, but as I am limited in my abilities it will have to do."
"Potter, you can't kill me…"
Harry didn't speak, but with a swish of his wand he conjured some metal spikes out of the ruins around him and banished them from different angles towards Draco, each towards an area that wouldn't kill.
And the pureblood wizard never saw it coming.
He fell to the ground screaming as blood spurted from his arms and legs. Harry used his wand to control the spikes, lifting Draco Malfoy into the air and then onto a half destroyed wall. The spikes lengthened through Draco's body, nailing him to the wall. The blonde screamed the entire time.
"I don't have time for a slow death. Just a painful one. You remember this spell, don't you Draco? Sectumsempra! Sectumsempra! Sectumsempra! Sectumsempra…"
Harry started with the feet, and moved up about six inches with each spell giving about five seconds between each cut. Soon, Draco was only hanging by his arms, nearly dead from pain and blood loss, though Harry's magic was doing its best to keep that to a minimum.
"I'd say you're but half the man you used to be, but you never were anything more than a sniveling weasel. Rot in hell, Draco Malfoy. I'm sending your father to meet you soon."
Harry conjured a single metal spike at the bottom of the wall and then had the spikes holding Draco to the wall vanish. Somewhere in his mind he heard Hermione throwing up behind him. Draco was now no more than half a human body impaled from groin to skull on a black spike. With a final wave of his wand words appeared on the base of the spike.
"His death was painless compared to what awaits those who come next."
And Harry meant every word.