Chapter 41 – Caught

Something had distracted the Dark Lord. At first all he could do was grasp for each breath. He needed to breathe. Air. Fill his lungs. So good. Then he felt it. Pain. His head was more than pounding. There was an intense stabbing, like nothing he had ever felt on the back right of his skull. His heart was throbbing in his chest and he could feel every beat. In his head. And in his left shoulder. Ow. That had to be broken. Great. Did it matter? He would be dead soon. A destroyed shoulder wouldn't really make any difference.

But did it have to hurt so much? The rest of him was just trembling. Damn that crucio. And no one had more hatred to put into it than the Dark Lord. He was the master of pain.

Ka-thum, ka-thum, ka-thum. At least his heart was still beating. For how long? So far he had given nothing away, but, then again the Dark Lord hadn't even tried yet. He had instead been throwing a temper tantrum and using Draco as his punching bag, in an all too literal way. He felt a new pain in his gut as he knew – he was going to die. Today. Very soon.

Probably not soon enough. He had failed. How could he face his mother?

Except - with this much pain he would have thought that he would want it to stop, but now that he knew that would happen soon – he had never realized how much he wanted to live.

The Dark Lord's roar echoed through the cave, causing Draco's head to pass his shoulder again in throbbing and pain. "WHERE IS SHE?!"

"M-my Lord, forgive me." That was his father, his voice barely a whisper. "Rosier has her. He said you wanted him to. He said . . . "

"They are still in the cell?" The Dark Lord's words were clipped.

"Yes, my Lord, they are . . . ."

"Antonin. Go. Bring her. I will deal with Rosier later."

Draco moaned. Hermione. What was Rosier doing to her? Whatever it was, the Dark Lord would destroy them both. And his father? Was there any way that Nappy could save him? Draco's own wand was broken. He could see one of the pieces over by the wall. The pounding in his head had to mean that his skull was broken as well. It was too late for him.

But Hermione? He couldn't die yet. He needed to help her. Could he summon enough wandless magic to kill her before the Evil One drew every last drop of pain out of her? Nappy wouldn't do it. He had given the elf strict instructions to save her. His hand went to his pocket. Did he have anything he could use? The amorita. It was still there. Apparently, the vials had been magically protected. They hadn't broken. But that wouldn't help him save Hermione.

There was a crack as Dolohov returned. Despite himself, Draco opened his eyes to see her. He was still aware enough to make it as slight an opening as possible. He couldn't let anyone see how much he cared. He could barely see Dolohov out of the corner of his eye through the blur of his lashes.

But she wasn't there. The Dark Lord had been reclining but he stood in his fury and Dolohov took a step back, stumbling under the weight of an unconscious Rosier.

"My Lord, I searched the cell. She's gone. He was unconscious. She must have . . . "

"Don't tell me what must have happened!"

A puff of air startled him. What was that? There was no breeze here. Had something opened somehow? Was the cave breached? He opened his eyes fully to try to see what had . . .

"Don't move. I'm going to heal you." Hermione. She was here, in his mind. How was that possible? And she had used his own trick to get him to open his eyes.

"Stay still."

"Don't. I need to die. He's going to kill me."

"No. Harry is coming." Of course, she didn't know that. She was just hoping. But his heart leapt anyway, foolish as it probably was. Maybe it was just the rush of having her here, in his mind.

She was silently casting spells. The back of his head and his shoulder went numb. The heavy blanket of pain was lifted and he tried to think. Could they do anything? Was there any point?

"How are you here? Are you okay?" He didn't understand any of this. Somewhere, someone was screaming, but it wasn't him. In fact, without the pain ruling his world he suddenly realized how bad this was. "You need to leave. You can't be here."

"I can't leave." He searched for her. She was here, but she was holding back from him. She hadn't responded to his questions. Her mind felt angry, untrusting.

"Did you talk to Potter? Did he tell . . . ."

A new scream tore the cave. His father. Draco felt a new pain. His father wasn't strong. He . . .

"Your father will be okay. He is stronger than you think."

She was icy calm. Clinical. He could barely absorb her words. She hated him. He could feel it, like shards of glass piercing his soul. He had to fix this. The Crucio he could survive, but not her hatred.

"What? Why are you helping me? Why do you hate me? I need to . . . ."

"Quiet. One way or another we need your help. You can explain after . . . ."

"No. Leave the injuries. They don't matter. Look." There was no time. He was going to die. He had to fix this. Now.

"Draco. Stop. There's no time . . . ."

He didn't care. "I know what you saw." He felt her confusion. She didn't understand how he knew. She hadn't talked to Potter.

He showed her his memory of sitting in the grass near Dover with Potter, so she would understand how he knew. He had to show her Potter's reaction. He grabbed that part where Harry said "I thought about doing that, well, something like that myself;" that should help. Then he jumped to the middle of the night with Pansy. He would show her that Pansy's injuries were just . . . .

There was screaming. It was him. The Dark Lord was back. The pain was back.

When it stopped he couldn't think. Had Hermione been here? Did he imagine that? No. The pain was different. His head wasn't splitting open. He just ached all over. Just a normal Crucio. He almost laughed. Had she fixed his skull that quickly? Or was it just numbed? Did it matter? He needed to do something. Hit the Dark Lord now, cause as much damage as possible, distract him from looking for her. If he had his wand he could send a spell, try the shield. If it killed him at least it would be fast and it might weaken him, maybe a little.

It didn't matter since he didn't have . . .

Pain again. There were no questions. No demands. Only anger. Only pain.

He was screaming. He was lost in the pain.

Then it stopped and he only wanted to breathe. Air. He needed air. Every time it stopped it was taking longer to get himself back together.

Again. Pain. Why?

Then it stopped. That had barely begun. He gasped and tried to pull his mind back. Was the Ugly One toying with him?

Was . . . that was him. Potter. He was here.

"Tom Riddle. I am here. Today we end this."

Despite himself, he felt an ache in his chest; he was so glad Harry had arrived. The pain had stopped. Potter had saved him, if only for a few minutes. Were they all going to die now? Was there any way Harry and his total lack of a plan could defeat the most vicious wizard who had ever lived?

The Dark Lord was laughing. He sounded insane, but at least his full attention was on Potter. Please, Harry, be able to kill him.

"I will end this. Today you will find out what pain is and then you will die." He was hissing in his excitement, sounding less human than ever.

Draco rolled slightly, opening his eyes, again, just barely. Then he felt her, felt something in his skull, she was healing him again. He was still numb, but he could feel her magic, like a caress, doing something to the back of his head. He felt the pressure disappear. She was so good at this.

"I'm not afraid of you, Tom. You know that one of us will die today. Your horcruxes are gone. You are barely human. You are going to die." Potter's voice was strong. He sounded absolutely sure of himself. Was that real? They were circling, wands out. Their words echoed in the nearly empty cave. It was so quiet that Draco could hear their steps – Potter's soft, nimble; the Dark Lord's smooth, slithering.

Then Draco heard a growl, an inhuman snarl. It took him a moment to remember who else was here. Greyback.

"My Lord. She is here. I smell her." He was panting, seemingly unconcerned with the drama he was interrupting.

"Get her."

There was a scuffling noise, then an all too feminine gasp. She didn't scream.

Draco opened his eyes he had to see what was happening. Greyback had her. The cloak was knocked almost completely off of her.

Then there was a flash, a feeling like he had been seized. He couldn't move. It was a Petrificulus Totalus. What the heck? Why?

"And now we will have a show." The Dark Lord was gleeful. "First, let me take these." The way Draco was frozen he couldn't see Potter, but he saw the glasses fly past into the Dark Lord's hand, then heard as he obliterated them with a spell. How odd that he thought that would matter. That plan seemed so far away and long ago.

"The perfect way to punish both of you. I will watch you twist with pain. Greyback will take first her innocence, then her humanity, maybe her life. You will both watch, helpless. You will beg for me to kill you."

Draco felt a pain in his chest, as though someone were pressing a heavy boot into his rib cage. The monster was right. There was nothing worse.

With a flick of the Dark Lord's wrist, Greyback was released. He gave a victorious snarl, his teeth bared at her throat.

A stinging hex and the wolf pulled back. "Not that yet." The Dark Lord reminded Greyback. "Let's take this slowly. First, you should . . . ."

Then there was a "pop." Ronald Weasley was there. Draco wouldn't have believed that he could be happy to see him, but he was.

"Oy! Ugly!" Weasley had arrived behind the Dark Lord and he fired a lumos spell at the Evil One's head. It bounded back, harmlessly, but for a moment it was blinding. Another flash and Greyback fell. Draco couldn't tell what spell he had been hit with, or by whom? Did Weasley do that?

Another "pop." Someone else had arrived, just behind Draco. He couldn't see who it was, but another lumos was sent, distracting from Weasley.

"Pop." "Pop." "Pop." One after another, each firing a lumos, although one of them must have used a Caterwauling charm, as the cave was suddenly bursting with sound. Thank God his headache was gone.

Then he turned his head. The Dark Lord's petrifying spell was failing. He could move. He sat up just in time to see Old Ugly press his own Dark Mark and Death Eaters began to arrive to even the odds.

There was time to move though. The Death Eaters were disoriented, unready, one in the process of pulling on his pants. Draco was running past him and childishly pushed him over. He couldn't remember how he got off the floor , he had no wand but it was the best he could do. What he needed to do was find her. Where was Hermione?

His hands were shaking. He needed a wand, although the many crucios had left him weak, shaky. His aim would be terrible. He still wanted a wand. He glanced at Greyback's frozen form. Hermione must have petrified him, but now she was gone. Unfortunately, the wolf had never had a wand so there was none for Draco to steal.

None of this made sense. Draco hadn't been on the right side at Hogwarts. Potter's sacrifice didn't protect him. Why had he been able to escape the spell?

Then he saw that Harry was still frozen, wand raised. His sacrifice didn't help himself?

Yaxley appeared nearly on top of Draco. Without thinking he tackled the Death Eater, who was completely unready. He grabbed the wand out of his hand, then turned it on him, petrifying him and sending him sliding across the cave floor to the corner.

He had a wand.

There were too many people now. He had to have a clear shot at Potter. So many wands were out. Light flashes. Noise. There were other spells too. It was growing dangerous. Streaks of red. Streaks of green. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a flash of green, and almost without thinking he threw up a shield, blocking the Dark Lord's spell just a few feet from Harry.

His heart almost stopped. That had been close. And quite cowardly. The Dark Lord had no honor. And he obviously feared Potter.

Quickly, Draco flung a Finite Incantatem at Harry and breathed again as he saw Harry's frozen arm move. He almost laughed as Harry ducked, a useless reflex, but at least it meant that he could move.

And then it was madness. Spells everywhere. Grunts. Screams.

Where was Hermione? She had the cloak. She must be using it, but she could still be hit. Still be smelt.

Greyback was gone from where he had been. Apparently someone had freed him. Draco should have killed him while he had the chance.

Draco moved so that his back was to the cave wall. Harry was battling the Dark Lord himself now. Where was Hermione?

He moved as quickly as he could, especially once he saw that, across the cave, Greyback was moving too, obviously hunting her, his nostrils flared, down nearly on all fours.

He stepped over a body. Someone in a Death Eater robe. No matter.

Surely she had gotten rid of her scent. But many knew she was here. Invisibility was only so much help in this chaos. A stray spell could hit her. Where was she?

If no one could find her, that was good. The problem was if someone else found her.

A green spell flew past him and hit the cave wall just by his head. Rosier. The man was awake now and apparently out to get Draco. Luckily, Rosier's recent round of Crucios had thrown his aim off. Unluckily, Draco had the same problem. He sent a Stupefy back, but Rosier ducked. Why hadn't he tried to kill the jerk? Somehow he saw the man as so pathetic that he couldn't hate him.

The key was to shoot a lot of spells. One of them would get him. Draco shot one Stupefy after another, as quickly as he could.

It worked. The older wizard barely managed to respond and now he was out on the floor.

Then Draco saw Rosier's wand shoot out of his hand and disappear several feet away. What?

His suspicion that Hermione had disarmed the Death Eater was only confirmed when he glanced back at the unconscious man to see that he had now been tightly bound. That kind of fast, efficient spell work reeked of Hermione.

And if he could figure it out, others could too.

Then Goyle was on him. His old friend's father was furious with him. Didn't he realize that Draco had tried to help him, tried to keep him out of harm's way? Apparently not. He was shooting to kill.

And his aim wasn't off. Draco barely got a shield up in time. He had to stay alive. There was too much that he still had to do.

Once again, he decided to compensate for bad aim by shooting as many spells as possible, although they were still red. No green. He couldn't kill Greg's dad. He would have to stun him. Goyle was surprisingly fast and blocked spell after spell, occasionally shooting back, always with Avada Kavadra. He was having no trouble with that, burning with hate. And he had lost his son. Part of Draco understood why he was full of hatred. Part of Draco hated himself for failing Greg.

So his spells were red. He wasn't going to kill Greg's dad.

And apparently one could shoot Stupefies faster than killing spells. The concentration, the hatred and anger, took extra time. And Draco got off more spells that Goyle Sr. did. A red spell hit its target and the older man fell.

Draco collapsed against the cave wall. He was exhausted. He cast a disillusionment spell over himself and sat back for a moment. The cold of the spell felt fantastic. It had grown muggy in the cave, the musty smell of dark magic clouding the air. He couldn't take much time, but he had to catch his breath. His eyes roamed the chaos, looking for her, trying to decipher what was going on.

There were bodies everywhere, although it was hard to know for sure which ones were unconscious, which ones were dead. That one was dead. Her blood was everywhere, her head nearly severed. And he knew her. Who was that? Not a classmate. Too old for that. More like a parent, a mother.

She was the woman he had imperiused, had used to save her husband, before he portkeyed them both to Dover. And now she was dead. Was it all for naught?

Where was Hermione? Where was Greyback? He was usually easy to find with his odd gait somewhere between a four legged animal gallop and a more upright human run.

Potter and the Dark Lord were having a freakishly strange duel. A visible thread of magical energy connected their two wands, as a larger ball of something, magic?, moved along it, now moving towards Harry, then changing directions and moving toward the Evil One. Other spells bounced away from them. Apparently, their connection had the Dark Lord's protection charm covering Harry now too. That was handy, but how was Harry to kill him?

No time to focus on that. He had to hope that Potter could take the Dark Lord. Where was Hermione?

There was the wolf, across the cave, moving away from him, half-crazed as he sought Hermione's scent through the must have to vanish her scent every 2 minutes. How long could she keep up? Suddenly, he saw Greyback stiffen, standing more erect, eyes alight, nose in the air. He could smell her. He darted across the scrum, completely unaware of those in his path.

Draco was following, no way would he allow her to face this menace alone.

But the wolf was closer. The wolf was faster. The wolf wasn't wasting time by dodging the spells that were flying past.

And it happened again. Greyback tackled her and Draco saw the cloak knocked off her shoulders, her wild curls announcing her presence to the mob.

Maybe it wasn't too late. He could surprise Greyback, take him down, keep his teeth from piercing her skin.

Draco was about to barrel into the beast when it turned. The wolf must have sensed his approach and now he turned to face him and leered. Her arms were gripped behind her, the werewolf's teeth already piercing her neck. Greyback smiled up at him. Draco froze. He couldn't do anything without hurting her. If only his aim wasn't off. If only he . . . .

"I knew you had a weakness for mudbloods. Now she is mine."

Draco raised his wand. He couldn't let this . . .

And the wolf fell, lifeless, to the ground. Behind him, once again standing tall, was his father, his wand still raised, a sardonic eyebrow lifted.

"Malfoys have no weaknesses." He was smug, majestic, completely back from wherever he had been.

Then Draco looked at Hermione. She was white as a sheet, her eyes beginning to roll back as her strength finally failed. He darted forward to catch her and landed with her in a tangled heap, pulling her aside so that they fell away from the body of the loathsome wolf.

She glanced at him before she closed her eyes, but he felt her lean into him, relax into his arms and knew he was forgiven. She had understood.

He heard a slight "ahem" and looked up to see his father, almost smiling.

"Nice catch," the elder man said, and Draco felt that a universe of meaning was there in those words.

"Father. How? You are . . . ."

Whatever he was about to say, it died on his lips as a green flash tore through the cave. The light caused his father's hair to gleam oddly luminescent for a second as the realization of his own end lit his eyes. Then the light was gone, and his father, his patriarch, his root, crumbled before him, landing tattered on the cave floor, his eyes still open. Empty.

Draco knew he was gone, but his body moved anyway. He clambered ungracefully across the cave floor to reach his father, then pulled the older man into his arms. He felt the heaviness of his dead weight and knew, even as he was saying aloud, "No, no, no! You aren't dead. You can't be."

There was a strange flash of red, which smashed into a green spell, then was followed immediately by a more bluish shield charm. Draco's head jerked up. Hermione's wand was a blur as she fought someone off. He had to help her.

Draco rose to his feet, finding energy from some deep place within him, and raised his wand, tiredness gone now. He was on high alert.

It was Dolohov. Of course, it was. He was avenging his pet and more green flashed from his wand.

Draco wasn't sure which of them cast the shield but this time Draco answered with an Avada. It came almost without conscious beckoning. He had been helping Greyback hunt Hermione for long enough. It was time for this monster to die.

AN - The chapters are still coming, just slowly. Was just about to post this in December, when I got a different laptop, with a different word processor. Had to relearn a lot. Thanks for sticking with me. Please review - good, bad, and - most importantly - any errors. Thanks to Hesaluti! She is much quicker than I am.