Our Most Inexhaustible Source of Magic
Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.
"Is it him, Draco?"
It's almost too easy to say yes. Even with his face all blown up and distorted, surely they can tell it's him. Potter's glasses are gone, but the mark on his forehead right where the lightening bolt usually is...
They don't need me...how can they not tell? Surely they can tell.
If the boy's distorted face isn't enough for them the werewolves have brought two others with Potter: Granger and Weasley. How can anyone not know, where Potter goes, those two follow? Any fool knows that. Any student at Hogwarts knows that Potter, Granger, and Weasley are the inseparable, insufferable trio.
They don't know what Granger and Weasley look like, Draco tells himself. You're the one who goes to school with them. They're relying on you.
In a rare moment of clarity Draco realises he doesn't want to do this anymore; he doesn't want to be this anymore. He doesn't want the Mark, or the Dark Lord, or any of this. He wants out. He wants to be left alone. He wants his family to be safe.
I'm too young. I shouldn't have to deal with this. I shouldn't have to deal with any of this.
Draco's silver-gray eyes flick again to the boy prostrated in front of him. His aunt holds the boy's head back by his hair; hair that looks exactly like Harry Potter's. She holds her wand to his neck, needing only her nephew's reply before she summons the Dark Lord.
It's too easy.
The one green eye that isn't swollen shut searches Draco's face. In that eye Draco doesn't see hostility; rather, he sees a plea. A desperate look. He's not sure what I'll do, Draco thinks, and that thought alone is almost enough to make him say it's Potter. Does he really think I will do it?
He can't say it out loud, nor can he say it with a look. However, that doesn't stop Draco from thinking fiercely, You owe me, Harry Potter, and one day I will collect.
"Well, Draco? Is it Potter?" His aunt's voice is shrill and impatient.
It's Potter. "I don't know..."
x x x
"You're a clever man, Severus. Surely, you must know?"
The man in question keeps his face a mask as the Dark Lord approaches him, and then retreats. Voldemort is eying him carefully, but for all his scrutiny Severus knows he can't see inside his mind. Years of mastering Occlumency have enabled the younger man to shield his thoughts and feelings from everyone.
Everyone, but himself.
Without waiting for him to reply, Voldemort continues. "The Elder Wand answers to the wizard who killed it's last owner." The Dark Lord pauses, no doubt to judge Severus' reaction, but he keeps his face as blank and smooth as ever. He can sense Voldemort's ire; at Severus' lack of reaction, and at his having to explain to Severus exactly what he means, even though he knows exactly what the Dark Lord is talking about. Mostly, though, he can sense the Dark Lord's hatred of Harry Potter. It rolls off of him in waves. This makes him smile, inwardly of course. For, as powerful as Voldemort claims to be he can no more hide his emotions from Severus than can a toddler.
"You killed Dumbledore, Severus. While you live the Elder Wand cannot truly be mine."
He doesn't know, Severus thinks. He doesn't know that Albus was disarmed before I killed him. And why should he? Only three people know the truth: Draco, myself, and Harry Potter. As omnipotent as Voldemort believes himself to be he still does not know the truth. It will be so easy to tell him. It's just four simple words, after all: Draco Malfoy disarmed Dumbledore. Those words will save Severus' life, he knows, but they will also mean certain death for young Draco.
A boy. He is only a boy. He does not deserve such a fate. Not like you do.
There is also still the matter of finding Potter, to tell him what he needs to know. For all his effort to try and find the Boy Who Lived during the battle Severus can now sense that he is nearby. Voldemort seems unaware of this fact, which he finds curious. The Dark Lord insists that, before the night is out, Potter will come and face him. A small part of Severus, the part that loves Lily, agonizes at the thought of her son having to face his own death in order to defeat the darkest wizard of all time. Does he realise how close the boy is now?
Like a pig for the slaughter; sent to die at the appropriate time.
His gaze on the Dark Lord never wavers and no emotions of any kind show upon his face. The war raging inside of him is done in silence, behind a carefully constructed wall of Occlumency. I must find Potter; he needs to be told, one part of Severus insists. Then, you condemn Draco Malfoy to death, the Lily part of him replies calmly. Severus' heart softens at her voice: his conscience through all of this.
It comes down this, then: Draco or Potter. He must choose.
Draco, so young; he has far too much to live for, more than Severus ever did. He does not deserve to die. He will outlive this war and he will be happy, one day, as Severus never could be. Potter will find him, Severus knows. He will tell Lily's son what he needs to know in order to destroy Voldemort, with his dying breath if that's what it takes. The Dark Lord will be defeated, and Severus will do his part: he will avenge the death of the woman he continues to love even to this day, his last.
He killed my Lily. He said he would spare her, and he did not. His Lily. His lovely, kind Lily. All he does is for her. His life up to this point, and the path he has chosen; everything he does is in her name, and in her memory. It is not done for Potter, or Dumbledore, or the Wizarding community. He dies, this night, for Lily. To atone for his sins, as well as to make sure Voldemort suffers for his own.
"You have been a good and faithful servant, Severus, but only I can live forever." The Dark Lord breathes and raises his wand. There is no hint of remorse for what he is about to do.
It takes all of Severus Snape's effort, but he refrains from sneering. You know nothing, Tom Riddle, and as the Muggles you so despise say: I will see you in Hell.
x x x
"The boy. Is he dead?" Bella's voice is hushed, as if speaking any louder might wake the dead Harry Potter. There is not a sound in the clearing as Narcissa walks slowly toward the fallen body. She is unsure why she is the one who steps forward to check on the boy, but no one objects, and so she continues on her path.
This might be my son's fate, she thinks and a silent sob escapes her lips. She forces herself to calm down. She will not be undone now. Not with her son still out there, somewhere. Hopefully.
He is so young, Narcissa thinks, as she crouches next to Potter's lifeless body. They both are so young, him and my son. This isn't right. Killing children isn't right.
She places her hand on Potter's neck and stifles a cry of shock when a pulse jumps against her fingers. She wills herself not to react. Alive. There is still hope.
"Is he alive?" Narcissa asks and she barely breathes the words. Her mouth is as close to Potter's ear as she can make it without the motion looking suspicious. "Draco. Is he alive?" she repeats. Her heart, much like the boy's, is pounding so loud she thinks it's a wonder the Dark Lord can't hear it.
An almost imperceptible nod is her only answer, but it is enough. Her heart soars.
Draco is alive and in the castle, and that becomes Narcissa's destination. In that moment nothing else in the world matters to her except her son; not the war, not her husband, not the boy above whom she is hovering, not even the Dark Lord. She knows the only way she can get to her son is if she declares Harry Potter dead. The Dark Lord will parade him in front of the Resistance, no doubt, and that will be her way into the castle.
The irony of Harry Potter being Narcissa's means to an end is not lost on her. She thinks she finally understands Lily Potter. Though she never met the woman she understands why Lily put herself between the Dark Lord and her son. If given the opportunity to do the same she knows she will not hesitate.
If Potter gets to the castle, though, there may be no need for anyone to sacrifice themselves. He is alive; there must be a reason that he is alive. If not to vanquish the Dark Lord, then why?
It does not matter, Narcissa, she chides herself. Only Draco matters. Only your son matters. Get to your son.
Narcissa Malfoy stands and turns to face the others. They are all staring at her, not daring to breathe, eagerly awaiting her reply. Even the Dark Lord looks at her anxiously.
He is alive! "Dead."
x x x
You know nothing, Tom Riddle... ~ One of the characters in George R R Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series often said to another character, "You know nothing, Jon Snow." While it was not my intention to phrase Severus' last thought that way, I figured I should reference it just in case.