The final chapter. :) Enjoy! Thank you, everyone, for reading.
Every act of a lover ends with the thought of his beloved.
Draco had no idea if the battle had ended. If it had, he had no idea which side had won. And he had no idea if he and Pansy would be found, by friend or foe, before they were dead. He repeated his spell to strengthen it.
"Protego Maxima. Fianto Duri."
The half-bubble that shielded them from being crushed beneath twenty feet of rubble shimmered with bluish-white light. Draco sat on the floor. Pansy was curled up next to him, his jacket transfigured into a black pillow under her head. He had to bolster the shield's strength every hour, seven times so far. With Pansy stable but still unconscious, how long could he last? A couple of days at best before sleep took him. He'd already decided he would only send his Patronus as a last resort. And didn't know how it would affect the shield, and more importantly, he couldn't risk distracting Hermione in battle.
He hated that he was trapped and helpless, while she was outside facing danger without him. Since he'd joined the Order, his and Hermione's fighting style had become an elegant dance. An ebb and flow of aggression and grace, attack and defense. They protected each other. He would never forgive himself if she… if he hadn't been there to keep her from harm.
Please let her be all right. Please.
He had prayed more in the last year – short, desperate pleas to any power that would listen - than he had in his entire life. Now he had something more precious than gold and more coveted than power. He had someone he couldn't live without.
Pansy moaned, and Draco looked down at her. Her blue eyes fluttered open, and she gazed at him in confusion.
"How do you feel?"
"Like shit," she muttered. She gingerly touched her black fringe and found it stiff with dried blood. She was covered with small cuts and bruises. Her Dark Mark was gray under a layer of dust. Her eyes strayed from Draco's face to the rocks above them.
"Are we underground?"
"That's a wall over us, isn't it?"
"A flight of stairs."
With another groan, Pansy stood up and studied the shield. She held up her hand, the top of the bubble just within her reach.
"Don't touch it," Draco snapped. She drew back her hand and scowled down at him. She'd always been curious, ever since they were children, and she'd always touched things to learn about them. He remembered her reaching into the straw in the Manor's stables, when they were five years old, to pull out a reluctant tabby cat that needed petting.
"How long have we been trapped?" she asked.
"Seven." Pansy sat down, crossed her legs at the ankle and tilted her head to one side. "I wonder if Potter's won."
Draco felt a pang in his chest as he remembered Harry, limp and dead in Hagrid's arms, his stupid glasses lying crooked on his face. It had taken months for Harry to trust Draco after his defection. But then he had and with the same ferocity with which he did everything else in his life that mattered to him. Not unlike Hermione. The two enemies had become mates. Harry knew about Bellatrix's vicious Occlumency lessons. Draco knew about the cupboard under the stairs.
He'd thought, after Harry's death, that there was no hope left. Voldemort was master of the Elder Wand. The possibilities were terrifying. And then Longbottom had stepped forward.
Why didn't Pansy remember any of this? Draco cast a fleeing glance at her injured forehead.
"Harry's dead," he said.
"No, he isn't."
She seemed so confident that Draco felt a strange thrill of anticipation.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, Potter's still alive. Though I don't know how. I watched the Dark Lord Avada him in the forest. I was ordered to make sure he was dead, but he wasn't. I whispered, Can you end this? And he nodded, just barely. So I said he was dead."
Draco felt a surge of happiness that his friend was alive, swiftly chased by a surge of adrenaline when he realized what that meant. If Harry lived, then he was still the master of the Elder Wand. If… No, when he and Voldemort dueled, the wand might not obey the Dark Lord. There was hope. There was a chance, a good chance, according their research. They could have already won.
"That was very brave," Draco said.
"It was very foolish."
He shrugged one shoulder. "Brave and foolish often go together. I've learned that this year, living with a pride of lions."
Draco knew Pansy well. He knew that she tried to adopt a look of contempt for the company he'd been keeping and failed. There was too much worry at the corners of her eyes and mouth. Her lashes swept down, but he could tell – years of knowledge distilled to instinct - that she was struggling to say something that shamed her. He remained silent.
"Why did you do it?" she finally asked.
"Do what?" Draco asked.
"Why did you save me? Why didn't you just stand back and watch me die?" Pansy looked up at him, open and desperate now. The shine of tears made her blue eyes brilliant.
Because you're in my first memory. Because you're my oldest friend, and I love you.
"Because you're Pansy," he said.
"Draco," she choked as her tears spilled down her cheeks. She hugged her knees to her chest and rested her forehead upon them to hide again as she spoke. "I'm sorry. I was just so angry at you for defecting. You were more than my best friend. I wanted to be with you. Of course, you knew that. But you gave up everything. You turned your back on me and all of your friends for Hermione Granger." At this, she glared at him. "I couldn't believe it. The Dark Lord fed my anger and jealousy. I took the Dark Mark without a second's hesitation."
"You defected, too, when you lied to Voldemort. Harry will vouch for you. And if he can't, I will."
"Like it matters." She stared up at the shield and the rocks. "Even if we get out of here, I'll still spend the rest of my life inside a stone cell."
"Pansy, you saved Harry Potter, and he's the only one with any hope of saving us all. That matters."
She sighed and wiped her eyes, still looking heartbroken. Draco realized she probably didn't know about the prophecy. As he leaned forward to tell her about it, the Bloody Baron flowed out of the rocks above. His misty head penetrated the shield. Pansy screamed, and Draco's heartbeat tripped and pounded.
"Two Slytherins!" the Baron shouted triumphantly.
"Baron!" Draco cried out. "Get inside the shield." He had no idea how the ghost would affect its integrity.
"I must tell her where you are," the Baron proclaimed, rising up until he slipped out of the shimmering barrier and disappeared into the rocks again. The shield shivered like ripples in a pond.
More than anything, Draco wanted to ask, "Who?" Who was the Baron reporting their whereabouts to? Was it Hermione? Was she alive? Was she safe?
Instead, he stood up, lifted up his wand and chanted with intense concentration, "Protego Maxima. Fianto Duri. Protego Maxima. Fianto Duri."
Blue-white light flowed around him, filling up the bubble of protection like water. Despite his spells, the shield began to weaken, its glow cracked by a slow shattering. The veins of darkness were as thin and delicate as spider silk, but they were growing.
Pansy stood up, raised her wand and chanted with him.
"Protego Maxima. Fianto Duri."
Draco heard voices screaming and chains rattling. He heard a sharp, violent sound like the winter ice on the Black Lake cracking in March. Rocks fell, and a bright light flashed. He threw his body over Pansy's just as pain pierced his shoulder. Agony burned down his arm, but before it reached his fingertips, he was in a dark place where feeling no longer existed.
And then he was gone.
When his senses returned, they returned with a vengeance. Draco ached all over, hot pain radiating from his shoulder. He opened his eyes and saw stone vaults, their misty tops disappearing into a starry sky. The Great Hall stood, its enchantments still in place. He lay on a bare mattress on the floor. Glancing to the left, he saw bandages spotted with brick-red blood covering his shoulder. He saw Pansy on the next mattress, a bandage around her head. Her eyes were closed, and she was breathing softly. Beyond her was an entire row of injured fighters. His allies.
Death Eaters gave no quarter. Did that mean Harry had won? Or was this only a pause in the battle? He gazed up at the stars, listening for hints, and heard Slughorn's voice across the hall.
"Just dropped his ghostly chains and disappeared as soon as Miss Granger levitated Malfoy out of the rubble. I don't know what debt kept him trapped here for a millennium, but whatever it was, he's moved on, just like the Grey Lady. Most unusual. Won't say I'll miss him though. Ghastly fellow. All that blood."
"Hermione," Draco whispered.
Draco's eyes snapped back to Pansy. She was awake and staring at him.
"Granger was at your side for hours," she said. "She just left twenty minutes ago to check on Potter in Gryffindor Tower."
"We?" Pansy smirked as she held up her arm to display the black skull and serpent marking her white skin.
"Whatever," Draco said. He tried to lift his marked arm, too, wincing as pain lanced his shoulder.
After a long silence, Pansy said, "They fought at dawn, just the two of them. Voldemort's Killing Curse rebounded and ended him as Potter disarmed him. Damned Expelliarmus. You could have told me I was the master of the fucking Elder Wand for five minutes, Draco."
"Wouldn't want all that power to go to your head," he joked. But at the same time, he was thinking, It's over. It's finally really over.
He sat up despite his pain and a swirl of dizziness. He had to find Hermione. He had to see her as close to now as possible. If the Great Hall still had an enchanted ceiling, it was likely that Hogwarts' Anti-Apparition wards were in place. Didn't matter. He was too weak to Apparate anyway without risking a good splinching. There wasn't a broom in sight, and even if there was, he'd probably just fall off it, snap his neck and become the laughingstock of the war dead.
Unbidden, he remembered their first Valentine's Day – the surprising and beautiful sight of Hermione on a broom, flying toward him, her hair whipping in the wind. How she had given her innocence to him, how she had taken him so passionately. His smile must have been daft because Pansy snorted with disgust.
"Fucking Hufflepuff," she scoffed. "Have fun walking up seven flights of stairs."
Weary and aching, Draco entered the archway of the turret stairs on the sixth floor. Five steps up, as the turret began to coil, he realized something was wrong. It was too windy and too bright. After five more steps, the outer wall became the vast blue sky. The stairs continued to twine up, clinging to the center pillar like vertebrae. The turret, their turret, was a ruin, blasted away by spells that had left a dark burn down the side of Gryffindor Tower. Its stairs led nowhere now, halfway to heaven before crumbling away.
Hermione sat on what Draco knew to be the highest, safe stair. She would have tested it with at least three spells before sitting down and leaning back against the pillar to gaze out over the western mountains. He stared at her, unseen.
She'd taken a shower. Her hair was loose and still damp, darker than usual and curling up at the ends. Her bottom lip and forehead had cuts on them. A bandage wound around her left wrist. She wore a white shirt, jeans and the black flats he secretly liked because they made him that much taller than her.
Feelings of wonder and gratitude overwhelmed him as he stared at her profile against the blue sky. He loved every part of her – her long lashes and pert nose, the delicate curve of her chin into her long neck. But some parts he loved best. Like her right hand, which rested on her knee. That hand had touched his sleeve one November day and sent his heart racing. Or her dark eyes, which gazed at the mountains. Those eyes had looked into his soul and seen the man he could become. The man he hoped he had become.
Draco didn't know which was the greater miracle – that they'd found each other in the dark or that they'd both lived through the darkness. He leaned against the pillar, and Hermione turned her head and saw him.
Or perhaps the greatest miracle was that she looked at him in the same, enraptured way he looked at her, with wonder and gratitude shining in the eyes he loved so much.
"Just tell me one thing," he said.
"Anything," Hermione said.
"Please tell me Harry didn't really use Expelliarmus to defeat Voldemort."
She smiled brightly, and Draco felt dizzy.
"He did," she said.
Draco rolled his eyes. "Bloody Gryffindors get all the glory casting first year spells and hacking up reptiles with swords while we Slytherins have to huddle under rocks." Like the reptiles we are.
"Snape was a Slytherin. And Pansy deserves a bit of glory, too. Or at least leniency."
"And you did get to destroy a Horcrux, Draco, so stop your whinging."
"It was only a little one. Not a giant snake. Longbottom's going to get all the girls now."
"You're not allowed to get all the girls anyway," Hermione said with mock sharpness. She stood up and stared down at him. With the blue sky behind her, in her white shirt, which Draco realized was his white shirt, he allowed himself the fantasy of thinking that she looked like a noble and war-weary angel.
"You're also not allowed to be out of bed," his bossy angel continued. "Why aren't you resting?"
"I couldn't. I had a job to do."
Draco walked up the turret stairs, every step painful. His shoulder throbbed, and his head ached. Though his hair and skin had been Scourgified of grit, he needed a long, hot bath. He still wore the clothes he'd worn in battle. They were streaked with blood and dirt and smelled of soot. He reached into the pocket of his ruined shirt and pulled out Hermione's favor. The ribbon was as lustrous as the day she'd given it to him, on these stairs, the charmed silk shifting from red to gold. He held it up to her.
"I had to return this to you," he said. "As promised."
Hermione stared at the ribbon for a long moment before reaching out and taking it, her fingers lightly brushing his. She lifted the silk to her lips and held it there. A breeze swept around the broken turret and through her wet hair, making her shiver. She wore the perfume he'd given her. Draco gazed at the dark fan of Hermione's lashes against her cheeks and wondered what she was thinking until he saw tears brimming at the corners of her eyes. Then he knew she was thinking about all the things that could have torn them apart forever but hadn't. He reached up and placed one hand softly on her waist. She sniffed and then walked down two steps, her eyes still downcast, until their lips were inches apart and he was embracing her. He felt the ribbon's red heat between them as she placed her hands on his chest.
"I told you not to be so late again," she finally said, gazing up at him with bright eyes.
"Yes, ma'am," he whispered as he leaned closer. "Tell me how I can make it up to you. I'll do anything."
Hermione smiled, seeming to consider the erotic possibilities of anything. Then Draco kissed her, and she didn't answer him for an hour. By the time she whispered her desires in his ear, her hair had dried, and the sun had set. The sky was soft with lilac light, and the distant mountains, as misty as clouds.
"Yes," Draco answered. He would do anything for her. She had saved him, after all.
Holding hands, they walked down the turret stairs together.
Any "Draco Defects" story greatly alters canon. Although I tried to include detail in this story to explain those changes, I wanted to let readers know I had thought it out. In my imagination, after Draco defects, Voldemort assigns Pansy his task. The Death Eaters never enter Hogwarts via the Vanishing Cabinet, but Pansy does disarm Dumbledore in the Astronomy Tower after he was weakened in the cave by the sea. She can't bring herself to kill him, however, and Snape kills Dumbledore, which fulfills his promise to his mentor and his Unbreakable Vow to Narcissa. As Snape and Pansy escape, Harry gives chase, disarming Pansy, and thus, winning the allegiance of the Elder Wand. At this point, I will say "unspecified things" happen as Draco joins the Horcrux hunt. At some point, the Death Eaters captured during Draco's defection escape and rejoin Voldemort (so that they can DIE in the final battle). During the Battle of Hogwarts, Snape is killed by Voldemort, his memories are given to Harry, and therefore, Harry learns he must sacrifice his life. Pansy, regretful of her choices, falsely confirms Harry's death in the Forbidden Forest. Harry, as master of the Elder Wand, defeats Voldemort. Pansy is granted leniency. The Malfoys are reunited. Lucius' pimp cane, the source of all his power and corruption, is snapped in half so that he won't misbehave in the future. Just kidding. A Lucius without a pimp cane is like a peacock without any feathers – just sad.
Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed "For Her Favor" - reviews are welcomed!