Thank you again for all the reviews! This is the end of Ragnarok. Thank you for reading.
Chapter Twelve—And Conquer
"You are ready."
Harry tilted his head in acknowledgment of Malfoy's words, but he didn't stop looking into the fire. Malfoy's Patronus stood in front of him, stretching its wings and settling its feathers continually. Harry didn't know for certain, since he had never watched his own Patronus for long periods of time, but he would wager that that was a sign of Malfoy's own nervousness.
Good to know it's not just me.
"It seems so strange," he murmured, because Malfoy's silent presence demanded an explanation from him. "To think that we might actually conquer the world, in the way that Voldemort dreamed of doing and didn't manage to."
The cormorant shook its silvery wings again and turned to preen the middle of its back. Malfoy's voice still came uninterrupted from the beak, though. "You must remember that our ambitions are different from his. I have no reason to want to destroy Muggleborns and the others he targeted. But they could give themselves reasons, if they started using the rituals or rebelling against us in other ways."
"Be as benevolent a ruler as you can, then," Harry murmured without taking his eyes from the flames. This was one of the last times he would sit in the room beneath the Wizengamot headquarters that had been his home for so long—unless, of course, he wanted to come back here. It was a strange thing to think about. "Then they won't have a reason to rebel against you. Publish the Wizengamot's private documents," he added. "That ought to prove to any rebels how far they've been fooled and what a corrupt government they've been living under all this time."
"What about you, Potter?"
Startled, Harry raised his eyes. There was a sharpness in Malfoy's voice that told him this wasn't part of the arguments that could simply be dismissed. "What about me?" he asked, feeling a bit stupid. "I'll be with you, of course, but I don't think I could persuade people not to rebel on my own. If anything, I'll be a target of attempts to start a rebellion, since they'll think of me as a hero until I teach them better."
"No, you idiot," said the cormorant. It was watching him with Malfoy's eyes, too, as well as Malfoy's voice. "You're going to be ruling beside me. You should adopt your own policies and tell me when I'm going too far. You'll probably notice such things more than I will," he added.
Harry blinked. "I thought—" he said, and then fell silent, reviewing his past conversations with Malfoy. Yes, in fact, he had been the stupid one. Malfoy had been the one proposing something like this all along.
"What?" The cormorant hopped towards him, ruffling its feathers aggressively.
"You did say that I would be your equal," Harry whispered. "I just assumed that you would be the one doing the ruling, and I would help you with the fighting and nothing else. Unless a rebellion actually did arise, of course."
"That's like you, Potter." Malfoy's voice was acerbic, but with an undertone of comprehension that made Harry relax. "You think you're not good enough to hold the positions that you assign to other people without hesitation. You wouldn't do anything without permission if you had the choice. I shouldn't be surprised. The Wizengamot got you used to being commanded, and a few fucks and a few rituals aren't enough to change matters."
"Shut up," Harry muttered, feeling his face heat. He knew Malfoy was right, and the sensation of freedom was probably what made him drift through these hours, dreamy and lost, but he still resented the way it had been pointed out.
"Stop being stupid," Malfoy snapped, and then his voice became low and business-like. "You'll respond to my call after I've spent a few hours in the Wizengamot building and I can be sure we have all the members we'll collect for that day. Tomorrow is an important vote. I expect general attendance."
Harry nodded. "I know. And when you call me, then I'll burst up through the floor with my power blazing around me. How many do you want to kill?" He experienced a moment of wonder that he was sitting here and deciding the fates of his former masters. Then again, Malfoy would say that he deserved the chance, given the way they had used him. Harry had to admit that sounded reasonable to him.
"Yes," Malfoy said. His voice was full of deep satisfaction that made Harry shift, because it got him hard. "That's it exactly. As for how many, that will depend on their sense. We might have to sacrifice several to make the point to the rest. I would leave most alive if I could, because there are some key positions they might be suited for under us."
"I wish we could kill them all," Harry muttered. He didn't believe the words. He wanted to see how Malfoy would respond to them. "They'll just become the focus of future rebellions if we leave them alive."
"And we would become the focus of blood feuds," Malfoy said dryly. "I thought as you do at one time. But there will be other times to fight, and people foolish enough to force us to it. This first step is the decisive one. Be patient."
Harry nodded, and lay back on the bed as the cormorant shivered and vanished. His head still whirled. He was sure he would have trouble sleeping.
He didn't, in fact. He was surprised by how quickly the darkness closed in, and how still his thoughts fell after the last one that trembled through his head like the tolling of a great bell.
Tomorrow, the world changes.
Draco glanced around the anteroom before the Wizengamot's voting chamber and gave a thin smile. Yes, most of the members were there, excluding a few on diplomatic journeys and some too ill to readily make it.
And Gilfleur, of course.
He extended his hands in front of him and squeezed air, then moved towards Risidell. The man stood there and watched him come with bright, suspicious eyes. Draco was sure that he had certain thoughts about what had happened to Gilfleur and if Draco was involved in it at all. But he hadn't said anything so far. He probably wanted to wait for more evidence.
Too bad for him that it'll be too late by then, Draco thought as he gave a friendly nod to Risidell and then turned and studied the other Wizengamot members.
"What are we here for, really?" he murmured.
"What?" Risidell edged closer to him. His voice had a crystalline keenness that Draco was glad to hear. It made what he had to do next easier.
"What is our purpose?" Draco asked, turning and staring at him. "Anyone who thinks that we actually serve the people of the wizarding world is mad. But most of us wouldn't say that our greatest ambition is to sit in a stuffy room and vote on legislation that only matters to us once in a while. So why is this position so craved and sought-after and fought-over?"
Risidell frowned and shook his head. "You were one of those who fought for it. I think you should be able to answer that."
"My answer might be different from yours," Draco said. "It would certainly be different from the answer that someone like Kellerston or Gilfleur might give." He paused, then added, "Though I suspect that Kellerston's motive was provided by someone else."
"Say what you mean, Malfoy, or say nothing at all." Risidell's voice was sharpened into a throwing knife.
Draco smiled and turned his head back, scanning the room for Kellerston. He hovered near the doors into the speaking chamber, it turned out, and his eyes were hot and his hands clasped together as though he wanted to squeeze drops of blood from a stone. Draco raised his eyebrows at him, and Kellerston grimaced and seemingly fought down the urge to actually spit in his direction.
"Say what you mean, Malfoy," Risidell repeated. He sounded a bit calmer this time, but Draco still wouldn't want to be placed in an empty room with him.
Then he remembered how close he was to revealing his power, and wanted to laugh. There was nothing Risidell could do to hurt him now.
"I will," he said, and turned around so swiftly that Risidell was forced to step back. "Potter, come forth."
Risidell's face began to change, but Draco was no longer interested in watching him except to make sure that the man didn't cast against him. He stepped back and fastened his eyes on the floor instead.
It shook, and then the stone slid aside like waves of water or silk. Draco wanted to applaud—Potter had judged the matter to a nicety, making others have to scramble while leaving a platform on which Draco could stand—but he didn't want to distract from the spectacle that was Ragnarok coming forth at last.
Harry heard the call echoing in his bones, the way Malfoy had told him he would.
That was a result of the ritual between them, Harry knew—at least intellectually. The ritual that had bound them together made it easier for them to sense each other, as well, or at least the sounds or movements that they might make which were directed to each other.
But emotionally, it was something else. It was like words that reached into Harry's heart and literally tugged on those nonexistent heartstrings people were supposed to have. He lifted his hands and destroyed the layers of stone and wards that separated him from the Wizengamot's antechamber because that was the plan. What he wanted, though, was to Apparate through time and space to Draco's side and never leave again.
He could do the same thing to Malfoy if he wanted, he reminded himself while his heart spiraled through his chest and the wards fell before him and the stone sheared and parted and plunged. He had as much power as Malfoy did in this situation, or so Malfoy claimed, and Harry was inclined to believe him.
As much. Perhaps not more.
But the important part was that the wards were screaming and falling around him, and the stone was crumbling into watery dust as it touched his skin, and Harry still had to rise to Malfoy's level—literally, not in any other way. He extended his hands parallel to the floor and told his magic what to do.
Up he went soaring, from the depths where he had lain like a concealed dragon gnawing the roots of the world-tree for so many years. It wasn't flying or levitation. He told the magic to make the ground reject him and then renew the bond when he wanted it renewed, and that was what his magic did.
He wavered and twisted in midair, but he knew that would make him more terrifying to someone who knew nothing about the magic, instead of ridiculous. He landed beside his partner and nodded coolly to him, then turned his head to scan the room full of staring, stuttering, stumbling Wizengamot members.
Malfoy touched him on the shoulder, then low on the back, as if searching for the best place to rest his hand. Harry stretched in response. He liked the touches for their own sake, he thought. How long since he could say that about anything?
"What does this mean?" That was Risidell. Harry had always thought he was a bit smarter than the others. At least he accepted that things had changed now, and wouldn't try to pretend that nothing had and they could ignore the circumstances.
Malfoy turned towards him. His face shone like the heart of a star, and on seeing it, all Harry's doubts that this might be the right thing to do collapsed. He was content to step back and let Malfoy answer for the present. He knew how to use political language better than Harry, but Harry knew better how to destroy.
They were united. They were two parts of a whole, both smoothly functioning, without discussion, at what they did best. Harry had to close his eyes from the sweetness of it all.
He opened them quickly enough when a man on the other side of the room moved forwards with a scream, his hand lashing out, with his wand in it, as if there was a stone wall in front of him that he wanted to push over.
Harry only vaguely recognized him, but that didn't matter. He was someone who was trying to hurt Draco or Harry or both of them—most likely both, since hurting one of them would damage the other—and that made him Harry's problem. Harry spun one hand in a circle in front of him and again told his magic what he wanted. It agreed with a small, sighing hiss in the back of his mind and shot out like a rope.
The attacking man shivered and slowed and then stopped. Marble had replaced his skin, and lumps of coal his eyes. His arms clamped to his sides, while his feet froze in place. His face was seamed and cracked, and Harry shook his head regretfully. He had meant to turn the man into a perfect statue, but it seemed that his own anger had interfered with that.
Draco's hand brushed his back again, while his mouth brushed Harry's ear. "Well done, Harry."
I'm not alone in wanting to call him by his first name, either. Harry turned his head, his eyelashes fanning out along his cheek, and felt Draco's breath whistle close by. Only the presence of others in the room kept him from a kiss, Harry decided.
"I will know what this is." Risidell was trying to sound authoritative and calm, but he was shaken badly, and it showed. His voice had more cracks in it than the man's face did. Harry opened his eyes in interest, to see how Draco would respond.
Draco had been caught off-guard when Kellerston lunged, though it would have been no trouble to do something about it. But Harry had gestured instead, without a wand, without a word, and Kellerston had become a statue. And perhaps Harry hadn't meant to indicate this—in fact, Draco was almost sure he hadn't—but the cracks in Kellerston's face made him look as though he was suffering in torment.
The others were frightened, now. It was the best demonstration he and Harry could have given, Draco thought, because it obliged the others to pay more attention to them than they would have to threats. They pressed back and away from Draco and Harry, leaving only Risidell standing anywhere near.
And Risidell's face was seamed with angry perplexity, as well as a dawning suspicion—perhaps—of the loss of control that this attack implied. The beginning of the end, Draco thought as he answered. At least, the beginning of the end of the Wizengamot.
Was Risidell, who had spent ten years in the most powerful body in wizarding Britain, capable of comprehending that on the first try? Draco thought not.
"Harry and I are allies," he said casually. "You never wanted to treat him as more than a tool, whereas I did. You have wasted him on executions. He and I are going to do more than that, grander things than that. You are looking at the two most powerful wizards in Britain. Perhaps two of the most powerful in the world, although I don't know about that," he added modestly. A touch of modesty was always a good thing, he had learned while struggling upwards in the past decade. Underrate your own abilities and you not only looked good, but surprised those who might try to take advantage of you.
"Monstrous," said someone from the side, who also seemed to have realized what Harry and Draco meant to do.
"Impossible," said Risidell. "You must know it is, Malfoy. Do you know how many people will oppose you?"
Draco thought it time for another demonstration. He turned to Harry. "That man you turned to marble has a worthless grudge against me," he said. "Against any Death Eater, really. We won't need him later."
"Oh, is that so?" Harry said, in just the right sort of casual, bright tone, and made a gesture with his hand as though sending back badly cooked food.
The statue of Kellerston exploded. Marble rose in a fountain to the ceiling and then fell again with a roar, and the Wizengamot members screamed piercingly and cowered as though they were being covered with bits of blood and flesh instead of the stone that it really was. And Draco knew that was the end of Kellerston. There was no reason to mourn him, there was no reason to worry further about him, and that was thanks to Harry.
He pressed a hand against Harry's cheek, hard enough to make him turn his head. Then he leaned in and kissed Harry gently on the lips.
When he pulled back, he saw a transfixed look on Risidell's face. It was followed a moment later by fear so intense that Draco snorted. "So you finally understand," he murmured. "What we are, and what binds us."
"An alliance with us would still be best," Risidell said. He was trying not to pant in his fear, but he was unsuccessful. Draco watched him with cool eyes, and waited patiently for him to be done. "We could admit Potter among our ranks. If he fulfilled some of the basic requirements—"
"Your requirements are done," Draco said. "As is the period of time in which you mattered to the fate of the wizarding world. We mean to rule by power, and we cannot do a worse job than you have. Not when my desire to keep everyone under my control is united with Harry's understanding of what is right." He was half-aware of Harry jerking beside him and turning to stare, but that didn't matter. Harry might be astonished to hear that he possessed any compassion or principles, but Draco knew the truth.
"You cannot simply do this, you know." Risidell was trying to conceal his fear with a lower tone of voice this time, and also perhaps trying to hearten the other Wizengamot members who were pressing and pulling away from him, staring in mute disbelief at their new lords. "There will be resistance."
"Resistance that we can conquer," Draco said, and nodded to the ruins of Kellerston. "Unless you think that we'll hesitate to do this again."
"You cannot destroy everyone that you mean to rule!" Risidell said, and his voice soared into a squeak. He cleared his throat. Draco thought about sniggering, but Harry did it for him.
"Do you think that everyone is going to contest us?" Draco asked, and smiled at him. "I don't believe so. Oh, yes, the Aurors will fight, and some of the pure-blood families who don't want to be ruled by anyone, or who think that we're going to impose changes they disagree with. But you've done too good a job of weakening in the Ministry in the last ten years. They will do what we tell them to, since they've got used to having someone order them about. And the wizarding population does what the Ministry and the Wizengamot tell them to do. I don't plan to torture and kill indiscriminately, and neither does Harry. Dark Lords like the ones we've fought in the past were stupid. We have learned from their mistakes."
"You can't," Risidell said. "You can't simply destroy the structures of the past and expect everyone to roll over and accept them."
"I told you," Draco said patiently. He wondered how Risidell had risen this high without the ability to listen and process the information being fed him. Perhaps he simply had attained the height where he felt privileged to ignore most such information. "We don't think everyone will, just as we don't expect everyone to fight. Some people in both categories, yes. But most of the wizarding population desires that their lives go on, and when we promise that, we'll drain a large part of the rebellious impulse."
"What do you want?" Risidell looked as though he'd start tearing his hair in a moment.
"Freedom," Harry said bluntly. "Freedom of a kind that means no one can ever use me again."
"I gave you my answer on the day that you interviewed me for my position in the Wizengamot," Draco said, and smiled with his teeth bright. "Power."
"We can give you that," Risidell said. "You know that the Wizengamot has the greatest power in the wizarding world; you've referred to it yourself. Why not stay among us and let us help you to your goals?"
Harry tensed. This was the kind of appeal that would have taken him in when he was more naïve or more depressed. He hoped that Draco wouldn't fall for the same thing.
Draco's laughter curled through the room, high and human and reassuring.
"You had that power, yes," he said. "That was why I joined you. And then I learned of Harry's existence, and that changed. Now you do not have the power to offer me, since we have taken it away from you and changed its nature. Grow resigned to that, and we may yet be allies."
Risidell bowed his head as if defeated, but Harry could remember him looking that way in front of other Wizengamot members he had argued with, particularly when they had disagreed about who Harry should execute next. He had never lost those arguments in the end. Harry kept a sharp eye on Risidell's hands and watched the way they shifted to the left.
"Perhaps what you say is true," Risidell whispered. "Serving under someone who would treat us well enough to keep us alive is to be preferred to a messy death."
Draco nodded in satisfaction. "You are an old political hand, and others of you are as well," he said, turning so that he could capture the eyes of the rest of the Wizengamot. Harry wondered if he realized that they were staring at him with undisguised hostility. "We could work together. We might—"
Risidell moved in a smooth, powerful fashion that must have won him duels many times before. His hand was in place, cutting across his body, and his mouth moved in the incantation but he didn't speak it aloud.
Harry had suspected, though, and was ready.
His magic created a shimmering barrier of whirling motes between him and Draco and the rest of the room, changing the nature of the air itself. Only Harry knew that those motes were made of steel and that they were edged with spikes that would chop any magic—or any flesh—that passed between them apart. Risidell's curse arched forwards and dissipated between them the same way that any other spell would have.
Draco turned his head and stared at the whirling motes in the air for a long moment. Then he reached out and stroked down Harry's shoulder.
"Thank you," he said.
Harry inclined his head. His heart was pounding, and he didn't know why. It wasn't as though Risidell had come close to achieving his goal. Perhaps it had something to do with the expression on Draco's face when he cast the spells that took away Risidell's wand and bound his hands, or the deathly stillness of the others.
Draco stepped around the barrier and looked at Risidell closely. Then he shook his head. "We could have used you," he said in a voice that had hardly any breath behind it.
Harry knew what that meant without asking. Draco stepped back and gestured, but the gesture was slower than the cloud of steel motes. Harry sent them forwards at the pressure of a single thought, his magic so marvelously obedient that it made his mouth dry.
Risidell shrieked before the motes attacked him.
They shredded him apart, digging into cloth and flesh and muscle and bone without slowing, because there was no barrier that could oppose them. This time, the Wizengamot members really could have ducked flying blood and tiny bits of human being if they wanted. But none of them did. They stood there, faces incredulous, bodies like stone, and let the blood cover their robes and stripe their faces and hair.
Harry stepped back and waited for Draco to clean up, because Draco had to show them that he had the powerful magic at his beck and call, too, and not only the ability to command Harry. Draco picked it up more quickly than Harry would have thought he could, probably because of the ritual that linked them, and smiled as he used his wand to scrape his palm and then blew across it.
The blood and flesh vanished. The remaining men and women trembled. Some knelt. Others looked longingly at the door, but no one actually made a move. They were waiting for permission, Harry thought. They were successfully cowed. And a few were looking at them with eyes full of sick longing, wanting to know how they had done that and how they could gain the same magic for their own.
Harry started. He hadn't thought of that before, but the rituals were weapons in and of themselves. He and Draco could distribute knowledge in dribs and drabs, and make sure that only those they truly trusted had access to any kind of enhanced power. They would be forever ahead of their "disciples," and he knew that Draco, at least, was wary enough to make sure that they created no accidental threat to their prominence.
I've never thought like that before.
But he rejoiced, because it meant he could learn a new kind of thought, and turned to Draco to find out what he was going to do next.
Draco swept the remaining Wizengamot with his gaze, and nodded. For the moment, he and Harry were in control of them. That might not last when they had time to think and reach a breathing distance, but Draco didn't intend for them to have that.
"You are going to swear Unbreakable Vows to us," he said crisply. "Divide into pairs. One of you will be the Bonder for the other, and then they in turn will take over that role when the next one swears to us."
There was a rustle of movement at that, but Harry raised an eyebrow and stepped forwards to stand beside Draco. They gulped and began to divide.
Draco could tell how it was going to be. This temporary victory would dissipate—if they let it. Instead, they would secure it by means of Unbreakable Vows, carefully chosen, and then spread their conquest over the wizarding world in short order, killing where they had to, adopting when they could, disrupting ordinary lives as little as possible.
Draco had little interest in the ordinary.
He looked at Harry, who stood beside him, head tilted back, hands planted on his hips, face bright and fierce and free, and felt a surge of longing that nearly knocked him to his knees in turn. He leaned forwards, captured Harry's attention with a tap on the chin, and kissed him again.
Harry kissed him back, more aggressive than he had ever been before, and squeezed his arse. Draco laughed, where before he would have been angry. It wasn't a sign of weakness or sentiment in front of this particular audience, because they were so much more powerful than this particular audience that there was no way they could threaten Draco and Harry.
Draco could see the future that stretched ahead of him with this particular partner, as strong as he was, as proud, and as determined to remain in power, and the sweetness made him lick his lips.
He took Harry's hand as the first of the Wizengamot came forwards to swear.