A/N: The inspiration for this comes from the story "Delenda Est". It's beautifully written, enchanting, and a thrilling read. Honestly, I don't believe that my story can even compare to that one. Although, it has inspired me to try once more at the Harry and Bellatrix pairing but with a more of an epic touch to it than romance (though that will still be included). In some ways this story may be similar to Delenda Est, so I give much thanks and credit to the author(s) who participated in its making.
Furthermore, thanks to all friends and writers alike that helped me write this and will hopefully continue to be at my side till the end of it. I do have positions for two or three more betas so contact me if you're interested. Anyways, read on. Enjoy!
He was running again. There was no time for rest. Many sleepless nights had already passed and under the circumstances, slumber would certainly not come easily. The rubble of his nearly obliterated school continued to rain down and trip him along the way but he managed to keep a steady pace. Behind him, one could say there was a trail of death; for everywhere he looked, dead bodies were cast among the floor. Mainly bodies of people he used to call friends accompanied by a few clad in black robes who where the worst of enemies. The sounds of battle cries became fainter and fainter with each sprint. Soon enough, as the distance from the battle increased, the nightmarish screams behind him faded away. Though out of earshot, those screams would certainly haunt him for years.
At last, he was away from the grounds of Hogwarts, leaving the turmoil behind, and now amongst the trees of the Forbidden Forest. As far as his eyes could comprehend the scenery flashed by him in a blur. The inhuman speeds at which he was running could allow nothing more to be seen.
Breathing was a difficult feat as smoke from the burning school behind him choked his lungs. And had it not been for his will to move on, his strained legs would have easily given out from under him at any moment. Pausing, however, wasn't an option. He had to get away but not out of fear. It was in the search for a miracle; for help. Any kind would do. Anything to give his side an upper hand was what he was in search for. It was a bleak prayer but hope couldn't be lost. It had to be kept alive somehow. After all, hope was the only thing they had left.
"HARRY POTTER!" A distinguishable voice hollered his name, encouraging his exhausted legs to move quicker despite the unbearable stinging of his lightning-bolt scar. Ignoring the grim calling, Harry continued treading through the forest. To his imagination, the inhabitants of the dead forest seemed to be shunning him, berating and belittling his very existence as he whizzed by.
"There he goes!" The dry leaves upon the ground crunched maliciously as he stepped upon them.
"There goes Harry Potter! He's the one who left his friends to die!" The trees degraded, looming over him as though he was a parasitic being that would be better off dead. Not that he disagreed with them.
"After they risked their lives for him! Here he is! RUNNING AWAY!" The mysterious critters and creatures barked at him in his mind.
"He's the worst of people! He ran from those who cared for him! They loved him! They sacrificed themselves!" The leaves spoke again.
"Everyone believed Harry Potter to be great- noble! HA! A true hero would never escape from a war no matter how bleak the odds seem to be!" The trees chimed up again as they scratched and scarred his face with their pointed branches to display their distaste for him.
"Go back! Go back!" They chorused. "Face your doom, you coward! You let them die for you, now you shall perish in vain!" Harry was aware that everything was a figment of imagination but the voices were right; the voices in his conscience were saying the exact same things. He was in the wrong. He didn't stick with them till the end. But what could he have done? They told him to leave- forced him to. With tears now leaving tracks of wet dirt down his face, Harry forced the insulting voices out of his being.
"It's all my fault. It's entirely my fault." He whispered to no one in particular. "They died because of me... I'm pathetic." As in response, he heard that vicious man again.
"I DON'T LIKE TO PLAY GAMES, HARRY!"He sounded dangerously closer now. Harry must have been running in circles because he could have sworn he had left the Death Eaters and their leader far behind him. Harry coerced himself to move faster as more venomous smoke wrapped its black fingers around his lungs and made breathing a futile task. The sounds of his heart beating like a drum stirred in his ears blocking all other noises.
Suddenly, he gripped his head and his eyes tightened shut. A violent convulsion had begun to attack his brain. In the sudden pain overwhelming him, Harry slid back against the trunk of a tree and held his throbbing head in both hands.
"Return to me..." His enemy's voice hissed into his ears like the sound of claws on a chalkboard. "And I will spare the lives of your precious friends that have remained. Return... and no one else shall die. I give you... my word." The suggestion was exceedingly alluring. In fact, it was so enticing, that Harry actually forced himself back up and started taking slow steps towards the direction of the Dark Lord awaiting him until he was close enough to see black robes not too far off. He was back where he had started, the burning school tumbling down like the falling empire behind the gathering of robed wizards. Thankfully, his presence remained unbeknownst to them while he continued moving forward. It was the plea of one of his best friends that stopped him in his walk towards death.
"DON'T DO IT HARRY! RUN! KEEP GOING! WE'LL BE-" Hermione's entreaty was immediately changed into screams when a red light struck her back and forced her onto the dirt in complete agony. Harry had no idea who had shot the Cruciatus Curse at her but he had to resist running amongst those cynical devils and killing every single last one. It wouldn't have worked anyways. They would strike him down before he could even reach her.
"HERMIONE!" Harry's other best friend, Ron, said in terror whilst fighting out of the arms of the two men holding him back. In a second he was by Hermione's side, brushing her wild hair out of her eyes to see her tortured face. "I'LL KILL YOU, YOU BASTARD!" Ron proclaimed when he turned to Rodolphus Lestrange who had his wand pointing at Hermione. The hot-tempered redhead was preparing to tackle the monster of a man only to be restrained once again. It took two strong men to fully hold him back.
"Your friends must learn to bite their tongues if they wish to live long enough to see you die." Voldemort advised through Harry's brain.
In his attempt to try and escape his captors' grasps, Ron had spotted a light glinting off something in the distance. Squinting, he focused his eyes enough to see through the smoke and make out the sight of Harry's glasses, reflecting the fierce fire that swallowed up the school. They made eye contact and Ron mouthed just one word to his best friend. 'Run.' Harry pursed his lips in deep thought. He didn't know what he should do. Should he listen to Ron and make a break for it again? Or would it be best to sacrifice himself? Many lives would be saved but over the years of Voldemort's reign many more would be ruined. But if he chose to run, what would become of his friends? They would no doubt be killed. Perhaps he could face Voldemort and his followers alone and by some miracle, kill him. No, there wasn't even a slim chance of that false hope happening. Harry looked up at Ron once more as Hermione's screams continued to torment his ears. Again, Ron mouthed one word but this time he jerked his head to usher Harry to get going. 'Run!'
Carefully as possible, he backed away from the fiendish witches and wizards before him. He was just about to escape their vision had it not been for a branch that cracked under his foot. Hermione's screams had unfortunately not managed to mask the sound. As soon as the break of the branch reached the enemies ears, a colourful array of curses shot at Harry. In the nick of time, he rolled out of the way only to be hit by a blasting curse from an unknown wand, throwing him back against a tree and knocking the wind out of him. Harry's left shoulder was undoubtedly dislocated yet even with that pain, he managed to rise and run from the army of black-clad wizards trailing after him.
Curses fired left and right. Hundreds of feet tromped against the fertile soil. Inhabitants of the Forbidden Forest scattered for their homes or at least away from the heat of battle. Harry managed to glance back at his pursuers and fire a few spells at them to take some out of the chase. However it seemed that no matter how many he took out, another came and filled the space. Harry's main aim was for Voldemort himself who lead the attack with a villainous grin on his face but his devoted followers either blocked the spells or took the hits themselves.
Harry was hunted through thickets of bushes, around the tallest trees, and down the steepest hills. They were persistent and easily hit Harry with more spells than anyone should be willing to take. If it weren't for his own perseverance, his hatred towards Voldemort, and his desire for revenge he would have been down and as good as dead. But he wouldn't let himself forfeit to the darkness beginning to encroach on his eyes. Even if he did out run them however, the blood loss from his wounds would certainly kill him soon enough. In certain places, he could feel the warm liquid flowing in buckets and seeping through his clothes. Harry pushed away all negative thoughts of death to focus only on escaping or bringing down the lord he despised so much.
"You can't run forever!" Voldemort teased from behind him, closing up on Harry as his legs were drained of momentum and strength. The adrenaline of being chased was wearing away thus leaving him without a source of energy. He sent a barrage of Sectumsempras at the chasers, leaving blood in his wake. He tried a new technique besides dodging. Instead, Harry zigzagged along the forest, confusing and separating many Death Eaters. Brilliant lights of all sorts of colours followed Harry's path, seeking to harm him but only came in contact with tree trunks.
The technique was working! Harry couldn't believe it! He didn't know how long it would last though and continued with it. He successfully gave himself more feet of distance between them. Some had tired of the pursuit and were jogging behind him slowly and fading away behind a mist that wasn't there a second ago. While observing his surroundings to make sure no Death Eaters popped up out of the thick fog, Harry failed to notice the slippery mud in front of him. Instantly, he lost his footing and was on his back, sliding downwards and slamming his head on rocks, stones, and large roots on his way down.
Fresh crimson blood dripped down his head and he found a sort of darkness overcoming his mind, clogging his brain from thought. As his glasses were lost somewhere along the way he had lost his sense of sight and didn't know where he was going. At the end of his slide through the forest Harry fell into a little hole under a tree like the entrance into the Shrieking Shack. The hole was damp, musky, and full of dirt but a safe refuge. Harry could hear many heavy footsteps passing by his little shelter and continuing onwards. He released a breath he didn't know he was holding and found that his heart was thumping fast enough to kill him. When he was sure his pursuers were a safe distance away, he tried to get up but it was hopeless. The injuries were to severe and prohibited him from even adjusting himself the slightest bit. When his continuing attempts failed, only leading to more bleeding and pain, Harry laid his head back against the trunk of the inside of the tree, prepared to greet death.
"So this is how I'm going to die, huh?" He rasped with a cough. "Well, it's better than what Voldemort would have done to me... It's best if I'm just gone." And with this conclusion, Harry closed his eyes and let himself slowly black out. However, before he could fall into unconsciousness, he could have sworn he heard a stern yet caring whisper from above the hole he had assumed to be his coffin.
"Help me get him out. Carefully! Hurry, before they return!" A cold hand reached in and gingerly held his head. With the last bits of power that he had, Harry opened one eye into a slit and could make out two people with blond hair through his blurry vision. "Hold on, Harry. You're going to be alright. Hold on." And then, he was out like a light.
Plop. Plop. Plop. Cold water dripped from the crevices of the stone ceiling above Harry's prone form. Continually, they dropped onto his eyes until they fluttered open. Instantly, he was welcomed by all sorts of odd smells. There was a sort of musky odour seeping through the walls. The scents of many different potions were fighting for dominance in the thick, suffocating air accompanied by the metallic smell of blood. To his weak eyes, everything was an undistinguishable blur but he could make out a chair next to him and great pillars around the dim room. Harry attempted to get up but a searing pain in his gut made him gasp and collapse. He inspected his topless body to see fatal wounds bandaged up as well as his arms and hands covered with fresh gauze. For once in what felt like years, he was clean and actually feeling well despite the pain.
"Looks like you're up." A feminine voice said from what Harry could make out to be the entrance. A gate squeaked open and the sound of clicking heels made their way closer towards him. "It took you long enough. Had it taken any longer, I would have assumed you dead." In a desperate attempt to see who his saviour was, Harry rubbed at his eyes and tried once more to arise but his injuries soon dropped him back down. "I wouldn't try to get up if I were you. I'm no mediwitch so what I've done to heal you so far isn't too great."
"Who are you?" He rasped through dry lips. "Where am I?" The footsteps stopped advancing.
"Oh yes, you don't have the best eyesight do you Harry? I completely forgot." The woman continued walking again, picked up her patient's glasses from a table by his side and set them on his face. "There. Better?" As soon as everything came together, Harry blinked twice and found two blue eyes looking back at him.
"Mrs. Malfoy?" He said in surprise. It alarmed him at first and he was tempted to jump away in fear that this was a trap although doing so would be near impossible and not to mention there wasn't a drop of malice or coldness in those clear eyes. In fact, they held warmth and a sort of sanctuary in them that Harry had never seen before.
"Yes, yes I know. Big shock, is it not?" In reply he spoke not a word. Narcissa Malfoy granted him this quiet as she knew that he would need a moment to gather his thoughts. In the meantime, she seated herself in the chair as she had many, many times to watch over him. In the case that he would awaken, Narcissa had prepared herself for nearly any question he could ask; however his first inquiry threw her off.
"Why? Why did you save me?" Although, even without expectation of this question, the answer was fairly easy.
"You saved my son. Despite the things I know he's done to you, you saved him. Had he been in your shoes, I'm ashamed to say Draco would probably not do the same." Harry nodded and adjusted himself a bit.
"How long have I been out?"
"Oh it's hard to say exactly. You've been in a coma-like state for quite some time. Three to four weeks I'd say."
"Three to four weeks?" Harry hollered as he shot up, ignoring the horrible ache that blasted through him and made a single tear fall out of his eye. "What happened to Ron and Hermione? Where are the Weasleys? Luna, Neville, Professor McGonagall, everyone, how are they?"
"Shhh, Harry." Narcissa said in a smooth voice, easing him back onto his makeshift bed. For a moment, she was silent and left Harry in an unbearable suspense. Then, with a sorrowful, morose look in her eyes, she shook her head slowly but she kept the rest of her countenance solid, not letting it show how much she wanted to cry. "Gone." The single word impacted Harry like a train hitting him head-on. It was worse than any blow he had ever taken from any spell. The Cruciatus Curse itself couldn't even compare. That one word shattered him into a million pieces.
"I guess that's it then." Harry whispered forlornly upon finding his will to speak again. "He won... I failed... It's because of me... it's because of me they all died." This was more than a boy of eighteen should go through. Narcissa could only imagine what it would be like to lose all those close to you, every single last one, at such a young age. Slowly, she pushed herself up from her chair and looked down at Harry; his hands covered his face in complete misery.
Very carefully, she took his still wounded hands, and gently pulled them away to see his green eyes, so much like his mother's, staring back at her and brimming with tears. "Don't blame it on yourself." She coaxed, brushing his dark hair out of his face. "It couldn't be helped. No one could have saved them. We underestimated Voldemort, and that was our mistake. But you're still alive, so there's still a chance for you to defeat him."
"What's the point of winning anymore?" Harry mumbled. "I'm nothing without them by my side."
"And what makes you so sure of that?"
"It's because of my friends that I'm still alive. They willingly risked their lives to save me... And I can't ever get the chance to thank them for everything."
"You still have a chance to do that."
"How?" Harry asked incredulously. "They're dead."
She refrained from flinching by the blunt statement and responded by leaning in close to him and whispering into his ear, "Live- avenge them, of course. Make sure their efforts won't be for nothing."
"Avenging them is easier said than done." He scoffed with a pessimistic edge to his voice.
"Then go down trying." The simplicity with which she said this had Harry turn his head to her, complete bewilderment on his face. The insisting grumble of his stomach took the liberty of breaking their eye contact and dutifully, Narcissa stood up. "You must be starving after not eating a thing for weeks. I'll be a second." And as she started to walk away, she took a look back at Harry one last time. "See if you can remember this place."
After Narcissa had disappeared up the stairs, Harry heeded her words and squinted into the fading light of a few candles to make out the room. Ancient dark artefacts were neatly organised around the room and the odd smells made it obvious that this wasn't a common bedroom...It could only be the cellar- the same one where Harry, Ron, Luna, and Ollivander had been locked up in. He was in Malfoy Manor where the Horcrux hunt had begun. Seemed to Harry that everything was coming to an end, right where it had started. Softly he repeated the words inscribed on the Golden Snitch given to him by Albus Dumbledore. "I open at the close."