Summary: What was going to happen to him was something terrifying; all his instincts were rebelling against his decision but Harry resisted. Now it was his turn to make a sacrifice and ensure their survival. Compliant with the DH up to the events in Malfoy Manor.
Pairings: Voldemort/Harry (later), Ron/Hermione
Warnings: violence, character's death, my sense of humour :), some slash (also later), etc.
Disclaimers: I don't own Harry Potter.
Thedoctorwho07 is the author of the awesome pic which I find really suitable for this story. link: thedoctorwho07 . deviantart . com (no spaces)
Thank you for the permission to use it!
Author's note: This is my second story which I post here on FFNet (TCI and TLA can be considered as one). I hope I will have time to update regularly. At the beginning you may find some similarities with HP7 book, but I promise the story will get a lot different later on.
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Nail in the coffin
"STOP OR SHE DIES!"
Harry drew in a long, ragged breath and held it in until his lungs hurt.
He should not have agreed to their help and company. He would probably be long dead by now, but this would have never happened.
Slowly, he peered around the edge of the sofa, clutching the stolen wand in a sweaty hand. Bellatrix stood directly in his field of vision, supporting Hermione, who seemed to be unconscious, and holding a short silver knife to her throat.
"Drop your wands," Bellatrix whispered icily. "Drop them, or we'll see exactly how filthy her blood is!"
"I said, drop them!" she screeched when neither of them moved. She pressed the blade deeper into Hermione's throat until a few beads of blood appeared there.
"All right!" Harry shouted and got up quickly, dropping Bellatrix's wand onto the floor at his feet. Ron, who stood close beside him, did the same with Wormtail's before they both raised their hands to shoulder height.
"Good!" she derided, her breast heaving wildly. "Draco, pick them up! The Dark Lord is coming, Harry Potter! Your death approaches!"
Harry knew it; his scar was bursting in flames. He could feel Voldemort flying through the sky from far away, over a dark and stormy sea. Soon he would be close enough to Apparate to them and Harry still saw no way out.
"Now," Bellatrix said softly, as Draco hurried back to her with the wands. "Cissy, I think we ought to tie these little heroes up again, while Greyback takes care of Miss Mudblood. I am sure the Dark Lord will not begrudge you the girl, Greyback, after what you have done tonight."
At the last word there was a peculiar grinding noise from above. All of them looked upward in time to see the crystal chandelier tremble; then, with a creak and an ominous jingling, it began to fall. Bellatrix stood directly beneath it; she dropped Hermione and threw herself aside with a scream. The chandelier crashed to the floor in an explosion of crystal and chains, falling on top of Hermione and the goblin. Glittering shards of crystal flew in all directions; Draco doubled over, his hands covering his bloody face. As Ron ran to pull Hermione out of the wreckage, Harry took the chance and leapt over an armchair. He wrested the three wands from Draco's grip, pointed all of them at Greyback, and yelled, "Stupefy!"
The werewolf was lifted off his feet by the triple spell, flew up to the ceiling and then smashed to the ground.
Narcissa hurriedly dragged Draco out of the way of further harm, but Bellatrix sprang to her feet, her hair flying as she brandished the silver knife. Narcissa, however, directed her wand at the doorway.
"Dobby!" she screamed and even Bellatrix froze. "You! You dropped the chandelier?"
The tiny elf trotted into the room, his shaking finger pointing at his old mistress.
"You must not hurt Harry Potter," he squeaked.
"Kill him, Cissy!" hissed Bellatrix, but there was another loud crack, and Narcissa's wand too flew into the air and landed on the other side of the room.
"You dirty little monkey!" shrieked Bellatrix. "How dare you take a witch's wand, how dare you defy your masters?"
"Dobby has no master!" squealed the elf. "Dobby is a free elf, and Dobby has come to save Harry Potter and his friends!"
Harry gasped as his pain suddenly peaked.
The scar on his forehead twitched as if it was alive and his stomach churned horribly. Dimly, he knew that they ran out of the last seconds before Voldemort was with them.
"Ron, catch – and GO!" he yelled, throwing one of the wands towards him. He saw it spin in the air, he saw Ron's hand reaching for it, but then with a loud booming sound the door suddenly crashed open and Harry's mind was instantly filled with malevolent euphoria accompanied by the worst surge of agony tearing his scar apart. He sank to his knees, holding his molten forehead, praying that Ron and Hermione had made it, that they had gotten away…
Ron's terrified gasp reached him only a second later and crushed his hopes to ashes. It was too late and Belatrix's exhilarating cry only confirmed his darkest thoughts.
"Dobby!" he called out blindly, still clutching his pulsing scar, "Hurry! Take Ron and Hermione out of…!"
A green flare penetrated his closed eyelids and as he opened them in terror, he saw the house elf enveloped by the deadly light. Their eyes met for one last moment before the void filled those large glassy orbs and Dobby's small body began to sink to the floor.
Harry caught him before he fell and pulled him closer with his shaking hands, embracing him gently.
"No … please, no… Dobby… Dobby!"
Rage and sorrow rose inside him like a tidal wave and that small, sick, gleeful part of him connected to that monster standing in the doorway was only adding fuel to the fire in his soul. He wanted to grab Belatrix's knife and tear open his own chest before cutting out that rotten piece and stuffing it down Voldemort's throat.
But he couldn't mourn for Dobby now, no matter how much he hurt. He had to find a way how to get them all to safety first. He was still alive and so was Ron and Hermione and if he wanted them to stay like that he had to think of something really fast.
He glanced at them briefly, yearning some reassurance, and noticed instantly that Ron had been disarmed in the meantime. At this point, he could only try to get back to the wands, which he dropped during the worst surge of pain, but he had no idea how he was going to do that because he could feel Voldemort's flaming eyes on him. Any wrong move and he would be dead. Not that it really mattered since Voldemort planned to kill him anyway.
"My Lord! As the master of this house, I am proud to present you with Harry Potter!"
Harry raised his eyes and looked at Draco's father who spoke to Voldemort, kneeling at his feet like some pitiful slave.
"You?-!" Bellatrix cried out as she sank before the tall, emaciated dark figure as well. "I don't remember you having any right to give him over! My Lord, it was I who summoned you and…"
"I caught Potter, my Lord!" Greyback stepped out of the shadows, limping and holding his broken ribs, but apparently conscious again thanks to his inhuman heritage. "Whatever they say, my Lord, it was I who caught him!"
Voldemort replied to none of them. Harry could only feel that intent gaze of his blood red eyes watching him from the shadow.
"Be quiet you gold-obsessed scum!" Bellatrix spat at the werewolf, drawing Harry's focus back to her. Greyback bared his teeth at her, but she was not abashed in the slightest as she continued in her hateful tirade. "You're not even worthy of our Lord's attention! Stop bothering him with your filthy half-bree…!"
That quietly spoken word was colder than an arctic wind and froze the upset witch in the middle of the word. She scooted back to a humble position by Voldemort's feet, kissing his robe apologetically. Harry would have snorted in disgust were he not so desperate and clueless about finding a way out of this mess.
"I am…," Voldemort paused as he slowly emerged from the shadows, allowing Harry to see his pale, terrifying snake-like face in the sharp clarity. Cold fear squeezed his madly beating heart and for a moment Harry struggled to breathe. He failed in his task … he failed everyone…
"…very disappointed," the dark wizard finished softly, a hidden threat trailing in his voice. "Had I arrived just a moment later, I could've only watched Potter disappear again. Is that how you wanted to hand over the boy to me, Bellatrix?"
"No! No, my Lord!" she cried; her heavily lidded eyes were glistening, reflecting her growing desperation. "It was all the fault of that dirty little house-elf who had appeared here and helped Potter out!"
"Shall I understand it that all of you were nearly outsmarted by a single house-elf?" Voldemort whispered in a cruel, mocking voice.
"M-my Lord…!" Bellatrix stuttered on the brink of tears, her face darkening in shame.
"Silence! Not another word from you, Bellatrix. You're dismissed."
Voldemort cut her off harshly, no longer paying her attention as he moved closer to his soon to be victim. Harry looked around wildly; he could not miss the spiteful grimace the older Malfoy made at Bellatrix behind her back. He could not quite care about it either. He needed some idea – anything would be fine at this very moment. But his mind was completely blank and he felt utterly hopeless for once. There was no help coming: he could only see Narcissa holding Draco in her arms in a faraway corner and Ron embracing unconscious, bleeding Hermione the same way he held Dobby's fragile body. Harry glanced at his best friend who returned his gaze dully, as if he was already saying goodbye to his life. 'Don't give up,' Harry mouthed words of comfort he did not feel. Still, it seemed to pull his best friend together a bit. Ron gave him a tiny nod and Harry quickly gathered his courage and looked up at Voldemort, who was slowly approaching him.
"Famous Harry Potter," the Dark Lord whispered cruelly, "…we meet again at last."
Slowly, he drew his yew wand between his long, white fingers.
"Ah, I wanted to do this with the Wand of Destiny, but, apparently, this one must suffice for one more time."
Harry, having a very clear idea of what was coming, laid Dobby carefully on the floor and promptly tried to snatch one of the wands behind him. They flew out of his reach just before he could touch them and fell on the floor with a noisy clatter a couple of feet away.
"Don't even think about it, Potter. This time I won't play fair. This time you'll simply die."
Hatred surged in Harry after hearing those words. Slowly, he got up and straightened his back.
"I will kill you, but first you must repay me some of that humiliation, which I suffered because of your impossible luck."
He flicked his wand and Harry felt his spine curve the same way he experienced back at the graveyard, but then Voldemort suddenly changed his mind and released him, pointing his wand towards Ron and Hermione instead. Before Harry could scream in fright, he heard him say.
A moment later, Hermione stirred in Ron's arms, looking owlishly around before she froze with a fearful gasp as everything sank into her mind.
"I want both your friends to see this," Voldemort explained and his voice shook with malicious pleasure.
"Now ... kneel before me willingly or watch them die."
With his heart pounding painfully against his breastbone, Harry turned his head to Ron and Hermione.
Ron's lips moved and Harry knew what he was saying – 'don't, he will kill us anyway.'
A shard of ice pierced that throbbing muscle in Harry's chest. He could not let that happen – and yet he could not stop it.
"It is not wise to keep me waiting, Potter."
Harry turned back to the Dark Lord and slowly, brokenly dropped to his knees.
"Ah … yes. This is so much better than the Imperius Curse. Good, very good. I wonder what else will you do to make them live a little longer?"
Harry said nothing, only gritted his teeth. He was sure Voldemort knew that the answer was almost anything. And that scared him. But he refused to show his fears and increase the Dark Lord's amusement.
"Such a fierce spirit … it's almost admirable," Voldemort sneered down at him as he circled him at a leisure pace.
Harry kept his head proudly up, even when Voldemort stopped in front of him again.
"Now, beg me to spare them," he ordered coldly. "Plead for mercy; grovel on the floor like everyone else and I may consider it."
Harry's whole body locked up in disgust. He stared ahead, refusing to utter a single word. His hands curled into tight fists and he clenched them harder and harder until it hurt.
"You won't?" Voldemort whispered. "You still haven't learned your lesson, have you? I believe I told you once that obedience is a virtue you ought to be taught before dying."
"My Lord!" an ecstatic shout came somewhere from behind the dark wizard. "Let me teach him, please! I'll torture that girl again and her screams will make him beg you like a child!"
"Bellatrix?" Voldemort said softly, tilting his head aside a little. "I believe you were dismissed."
"M-master, I … I … thought that maybe you would like to reconsider…?" she said haltingly as she came into Harry's peripheral view. Her voice was trembling and pleading.
Voldemort did not answer, but according to her devastated face, he must have given her one of his merciless looks. She deflated before Harry's eyes, finally coming to understand her punishment. She was not allowed to watch the moment of her master's triumph.
Just a few seconds later the burning feeling returned to Harry's forehead, telling him that he was being watched again. It was when the door closed behind Lestrange that Voldemort spoke again.
"I'm not at all surprised that you refuse to cooperate, Potter. Never mind, I intend to deal with this quickly," he said and tapped the wand against his fingers, before giving him a mirthless smile. "However, first you will watch me kill your friends. That shall, without question, break your fragile mind and provide me with sufficient entertainment. Now, tell me, who should go first - the boy or the girl?"
At that moment, Harry realized with certainty that bordered with madness that he had nothing to lose. He could just kneel there and watch his most important people die the same way Dobby did or he could be murdered first in an attempt to save them. From this point of view, there was nothing to consider.
Harry looked up at Voldemort and since he was already prepared to perish in the next moment, he did not care about the consequences of his next move.
"Ladies go first, my Queen," he snarled through his teeth, fierce hatred filling each of his words. And then he shot his tightly clenched fist into Voldemort's groin, which was coincidentally within reach and just at his eye level.
It was a precise hit. Harry could feel his knuckles meet the hard bone, causing all the fleshy parts in between considerable damage.
The shriek Voldemort gave in response was far outside the range of any normal human vocal cords. In that brief moment of immense satisfaction, Harry watched the tall body curl inward as if it wanted to implode. The long claws found and scratched Harry's face painfully as the howling man dropped to his knees, but Harry disregarded it in order to aim his other fist to the small cleft of Voldemort's chin. He hit it with the same precision and with a quiet snap of two rows of teeth colliding together the dark wizard fell over, the wand momentarily slipping from his fingers.
This was his opening.
This was the chance Harry stopped hoping for.
He leaped after it, but Voldemort was right behind him, tearing his jacket and shirt to shreds and scratching his back raw in delirious fear of losing his wand to his greatest enemy.
"LUCIUS!" the Dark Lord shrieked the first coherent word and Harry could see from the corner of his eye the blond man wake up from his shock and rush forward to help his master.
Giving everything to this one last chance he had, Harry, still lying sprawled on the floor under Voldemort's weight, stretched as far as he could and then a little farther and finally caught the handle of the yew wand between his index and middle finger. He pulled it into his hand, fighting down a strong urge to turn around and blast the Dark Lord's head away. It was not possible to kill him yet; Harry knew he needed to destroy his Horcruxes first.
That was why he threw the wand across the room before Riddle had any chance to wrestle it from him and Voldemort, since his existence depended on it fully, followed the wand's direction blindly, screaming orders at his followers to stop them no matter what.
The red light of a Stunning Spell sang in Harry's hair as he got to his feet and he glanced aside, seeing Lucius hit the floor in an undignified manner.
Harry turned to the caster of the spell and saw Ron throwing him one of the wands which he had summoned, while Hermione, weak and hurt as she was, managed to tug Griphook out from under the chandelier before taking Ron's hand fast.
Harry caught the wand expertly, then sprinted back to Dobby and also seized his small, inert hand.
"POTTER!" Voldemort bellowed and Harry saw him turn toward them, the wand in his hand again.
Harry did not wait to hear the rest; he turned on the spot and disappeared into unknown, repeating the name of the destination in his thoughts, hoping that it would be enough to get them to safety…
Bill and Fleur's . . . Shell Cottage . . . Bill and Fleur's . . .
And then he fell onto wet grass and peaceful sounds of a distant sea filled his distraught mind.
Harry kept his eyes closed, unable to move for a while. Even breathing seemed too difficult to carry out at that point. He felt emotionally drained and completely exhausted.
Sometime later, he realized that they had indeed arrived to the beach close to the Shell Cottage since Dean and Luna rushed to him and started to talk to him urgently. He did not hear what they were saying; as he opened his eyes he only watched Dobby's tiny body lying stiffly beside him.
"Ron … Hermione?" he managed to ask later and Dean told him that they were all right and that he should follow them to the cottage as well.
"No… I want to bury him first. And I want to do it properly…," he heard himself speak quietly.
His scar prickled and burned as he started to work, digging deeper and deeper into the ground. One part of his mind felt Voldemort's rage and pain and saw him punishing cruelly those who were left behind in the Manor. Yet, as he let loose all his pent-up grief which he had to preserve inside in order to survive, it now shielded him from the impact of Voldemort's fury.
With a loss of his dear friend, his obsessive longing for the Hallows subsided as well. Did he really want to shield himself from the death when his friends were ready to pay such a price only to protect him?
He felt as though he had been slapped awake.
It was already an early morning when they all had gathered by Dobby's grave and said their tearful goodbyes. Afterward, Harry returned with them to the cottage and took a seat by the table in the kitchen. He was staring out at the beautiful, morning scenery through the window, remembering how he pleaded Dobby never to save his life again. If Dobby listened to him, his little friend would be still alive while he would be already somewhere beyond … somewhere with his parents.
"Arry … mon Dieu! I've only just noticed that you'rrre bleeding too! Come here, let me take carrre of it."
Harry turned to Fleur, feeling little stabs of pain as the torn skin on his back stretched with the movement.
"I'm fine," he said dully. "Surely others need your help more than I do, Fleur."
"Others arrre already resting and healing. Now eez your turn."
Having no words of protest left, Harry shrugged and turned his injured back to Fleur.
"O' my," he heard her disturbed mutter a moment later. "It lookz rrreally nasty. W'o did that to you?"
"You don't want to know that," Harry whispered, watching the sun rays reflect on the glass of water before him.
"I must clean it firzt," she said and he nodded mindlessly, listening to Bill who talked about Ginny being safe from Hogwarts since the Death Eaters knew now that Ron was travelling with him.
Before he could have asked about how the Weasleys were protected, Fleur spoke to him again.
"There eez a piece of somet'ing in your wound, Arry. I muzt remove it. It may zting a little."
A moment later, Harry felt a brief pang of pain and then some unpleasant wetness as his blood began to pour anew from the deep scrape along his spine.
"What eez it?" Fleur said, frowning in disgust. Harry turned around and looked at her bloodied fingertips. She was just about to throw whatever she was holding away, but he caught her hand gently and placed the little object onto his palm.
"It lookz almost like a … fingernail," she shuddered and wrinkled her nose.
"I'm sure it's exactly what it looks like," Harry said, thinking fast.
He was going to keep it for the time being. There was something about it he would like to discuss with Hermione, but he also needed to talk to Griphook and Ollivander.
And he already knew who he had to pay a visit first.