The scene that met them on the Hogwarts grounds could only be described as chaotic. Draco's request to his father seemed to break any and all restraint that the Death Eaters were using. Spells were flying from every direction in a multitude of colours and it wasn't long until bodies started dropping, whether from stunners or killing curses, Harry didn't know. He, Draco, Ron and Hermione needed to focus on taking down their biggest threat. At this point, that was Lucius Malfoy.
Lucius hadn't joined the Death Eaters in the battle, he seemed to watch and govern from the safety of the sidelines. Harry fought his way towards him, hoping the others weren't far behind and staying safe. He could sense Draco not too far away, but it had been so long since he had fought alongside Ron and Hermione that he couldn't feel their presence anymore. Another shockwave came, and Harry hit the ground hard and fast. This must be what Lucius was actually doing, waiting for the perfect moment to distract the most amount of people. It was a smart strategy.
Draco held out his hand to help Harry up. "Are you ok?"
"I'm fine. Where's Ron and Hermione?" Harry started searching the field behind them.
"Fighting Alecto, Greyback and Lastrange." Draco pointed to where the battle was the thickest and Harry saw the fight happening. He had to admit, he was impressed by what he saw. Hermione was ferocious with her unruly hair flying around her and Ron was nothing short of brutal. His friends had come an awful long way. "I don't think we can count on them joining us."
Harry nodded and began to feel incredibly stupid, they had been standing still too long, they needed to keep moving. "Let's go."
The path to Draco's father wasn't clear or calm. Harry found himself fighting a masked Death Eater while Draco struggled in the ropes that bound him. The fighting was a fierce to experience and watch. The grass was stained red and more than once Harry tripped over a lifeless body. After he had tripped and saw the lifeless eyes of Seamus Finnigan staring up at him, Harry refused to look to closely at the dead.
The tales of great battles in war glossed over the more stomach-churning aspects of the truth. It was fights like this that birthed muggle horror novels. No one tells you about the sound of people groaning in pain before they die of blood loss. No one tells you what it is like to see someone's legs a meter away from the rest of their body. Worst of all, no one tells you about the smell, the smell of burnt flesh and fresh blood, the smell Harry would remember for the rest of his life. Harry fought to separate his mind, he needed to believe that the death and destruction wasn't happening around him or he wouldn't be able to continue.
They were close now, Harry could almost see the triumph in Lucius' eyes as he approached. He was just about to break into a run when from behind him came a loud cry of, "Harry! Harry Potter!"
Harry turned and saw the unmistakeable squat figure of Peter Pettigrew running towards him. When he saw Harry turn, he threw his wand away with a flourish and fell to his knees at Harry's feet. Pettigrew's hair still grew in patches and his nose twitched like the rate he was and always be. The pathetic excuse for a man was shaking, violently.
"Harry, you must forgive me, please" Pettigrew stuttered, his head bowed low. "He is so powerful and I'm so weak, I had no choice, I couldn't say no. There wasn't anyone who could match his strength. I never imagined that you would have that power too, I can see it, in your eyes. Please Harry take me as your servant, I surrender, please."
Harry bent down on one knee, confident that Draco would watch his back. He placed a hand firmly on Pettigrew's chin and forced their eyes to meet. Pettigrew was terrified and the sweat dripping off of his face was thick. "Peter, I have been aware for a long time of how far your cowardice really does extend. Really, you had no choice. You needed the protection."
"Oh Harry yes!" Pettigrew beamed up at him. "Thank you! Thank you! I knew you would understand! Thank you!"
Harry smiled, not removing his hand and thought of the spell Snape had reluctantly taught him a few weeks ago. Life or death he said, only when there was no other option he said. The way Harry saw things, he had no other option, this was it. He raised his wand to Pettigrew's throat and whispered 'Sectumsempra'.
He was filled with a strange fascination watching the affects, almost as if he was reading a mildly interesting book. Rather than spray Harry with bright red liquid like what happens in muggle movies, the blood was dark and flowed easily down the front of Pettigrew's robes. Harry let the body fall watching it shake and twitch and saw as the last spark of life left the beady eyes. Harry stood and noticed absently that he was standing in a puddle of thick warm blood. The same blood that covered his face and clothes.
"Are you ok Harry?" Draco said from behind him.
Harry honestly couldn't answer that question so instead he turned and said, "It's your turn, are you ready?"
"You look like you lost a fight with a can of paint." Draco said, trying to lighten the mood. "Want me to clean you up?"
"What don't you like me looking all dark and mysterious?" Harry joked but gladly accepted Draco's scourgify. Looking down at Pettigrew, Harry wondered whether his ability to make a joke seconds after taking someone's life was a testament to Peter's wrong doings in life or a look at his own darkness. Shouldn't he be feeling something after finally killing Peter? Relief? Anger? Sadness? Even Joy? There were no emotions there, he only felt numb. This is what caused him to truly feel fear.
"Harry," Draco put a hand on his shoulder. "We need to go."
Harry nodded and pushed his thoughts to the side, if he got the chance he would deal with them later. He had a job to do and before he could complete it they had to overcome one more obstacle. Draco had to confront and conquer his own demon, his father.
Lucius had stopped contemplating the battle, his eyes were fixated on Harry. Harry was pleased to note that Lucius seemed completely unnerved by what he had watch Harry do. Good, let him fear what I can do, Harry thought to himself that way he might not suspect his son.
"Father," Draco bent down into a mocking bow. "So sorry I haven't written you more, if at all, but I felt that our differences in opinion might be cause for contention. See I am under the opinion that my mother didn't deserve to die, and you apparently weren't"
"Draco," Lucius seemed to choose to ignore Draco's statement. "I must insist that you cease making these idiotic mistakes. You know that the Dark Lord will forgive you, just come back to the right side. I taught you better than this."
"You taught me very well yes." Draco said raising his wand. "You taught me the importance of patience and respect. Without these lessons I would have tried to kill you long before now and I would have been sure to die in the process."
"Come now Draco," Lucius held up his own wand. "We both know that you won't kill me. You've always been far too much of a coward to ever accomplish something so daring. Just like your mother, weak and pathetic."
Draco let out an inhuman growl of rage. He flicked his wand once and a large gash appeared on Lucius' thigh, blood stained his robes. "You don't get to talk about her! She was twice the person you will ever be! She was a good person, a good mother and you took her from me!"
Draco had gone feral, all of the anger that he felt towards his father finally found its victim. Father and son threw curse after curse, neither one arming to disarm, both out for blood. Sweat was falling down Draco's neck as he moved to block, dodge and cast. Harry was using all of his self-restraint to not step in and help, he had made a promise to Draco to not intervene.
Lucius was relentless. His teeth were bared and there was no time, seemingly no breath between the spells that he cast. Both wands were moving so fast they looked little more than blurs. Harry could see that Lucius was about to feign right, Draco didn't. A red stunner hit Draco in the stomach sending him flying backwards in a heap.
Lucius moved to stand over his sons body. "Pathetic, you are truly no son of mine. Avada Ked- "
"Petrificus totalus." Harry screamed pointing at Lucius' back. Yes he promised to leave him to Draco, but Draco wasn't exactly in a position to argue. Kneeling down he said 'Enervate'
Draco sat up gasping for air and clawing at Harry's robes. "Where is he? Did he get away?"
Harry shook his head and pointed to the body behind him. "He was about to kill you."
Draco nodded and stood up to watch Lucius' eyes daring around wildly. "I could hide him until this is all over and then the aurors can have him. That would be the right thing to do yeah? What do I do Harry?"
"I can't make that decision for you Draco." Harry looked down to study Lucius.
"Can I trust you? Can I trust you completely?" Draco asked earnestly.
"Seeing as you just watched me open Pettigrew ear to ear, I'd say that's a moot point." Harry pointed to the blood Draco had missed on his shoes.
Draco nodded once and bent down to look into his father's eyes. "This is too good for you. If there was any justice in this world, you would be left screaming in agony until the end of time. But there's not and I can't trust you not to escape if you're arrested, you're too intelligent for your own good. Know though, at the end of it all, that you were right, your precious little prince is a blood traitor and proud of it. Avada Kedavra."
Harry had seen the killing curse's effects before, but that didn't make it any easier to comprehend. There were of course no new marks on Lucius' body, he simply lay there, frozen. You could be forgiven for thinking that he was, in fact, still under that body bind. That was until you saw the eyes. No longer were they darting around in their sockets. They stared out into nothing, devoid of all life. Harry noticed that they were the exact shape and colour of Draco's, but the never held the warmth or passion that were always in his son's.
Draco's brows were crossed when Harry looked at him. "Is that it? I thought it would be more, well more."
"Harry! Draco!" A voice called from behind him as Harry was about to respond. Turning he saw Hermione and Ron running towards them and away from the battle still ragging. When they finally caught up, Hermione's eyes fell to the body on the ground before them and all she could say was, "Oh."
"Come on, he'll turn up soon, I'm sure of it." Harry turned towards to Quidditch pitch and let the others follow. Away from the horror behind him, harry took a moment to appreciate the beauty around him. Hogwarts will always be his home, the one place that he could always feel a sense of connection and love. This was the main reason that he wanted to have the final battle here. If he died today, at least he would die surrounded by a sense of belonging and memories of a happier, simpler time.
He wondered what would happen if he did lose this fight. Would someone else be able to take Voldemort down if Harry did manage to weaken him? How long would his friends mourn for him? Would he see his parents, Sirius, Dumbledore again? Would he finally find peace, or will he live forever in his nightmares? He was aware that some muggles that believed in eternal damnation for sinners and some believed they would be punished until they had worked off their evil deeds. Is that where he'd go?
"Harry," Draco said as they stepped onto the pitch. "Remember what you promised me. Remember that you promised me that you would at least try to survive."
Before Harry could even begin to offer reassurances or say all the things he had planned, to say goodbye, Ron, Hermione and Draco were thrown 50 metres away. Harry turned to see his living nightmare, Voldemort, striding towards him. Voldemort raised his wand above his head and moved it in a large circle. A dome, almost translucent, twenty meters wide and just as high encased them both. Harry could just make out his friends hammering on the perimeter trying to break through.
"I knew you'd come out of hiding eventually Harry. You are many things, but a coward is not one of them. Everyone kept saying that you must have fled, that you had finally realised that you were no match for me. I knew better though, I know you better than that. No one will ever understand you the way I do." Voldemort stood with his wand at his side, looking at Harry with something almost akin to admiration.
Harry paced the dome and Voldemort mirrored every step. Both were trying to calculate the other and neither willing to give up any ground in the process. Harry fought to ignore the pain in his scar and the natural fear that came when staring into those snake-like eyes. This is what he had been working towards, he could move beyond mortal fear and pain. He had no choice.
"You've come a long way in the two years since I last saw you Harry. You've learned a lot and the control that you have over your magic is, I must say, impressive." Voldemort was still to raise his wand. "You've learned focus and restraint, you've grown comfortable and impressively powerful. You and I could be great together you know, no one would ever even attempt to defy us."
Harry couldn't help the cold and bitter laugh that escaped him. "When we met for the second time, after you killed my parents, when you were little more than a leech, you said something similar to me. I turned you down then, even when I was just a child, what makes you think I would join you now? Why would you think I would ever change my mind?"
"You've changed." Harry could see Voldemort's wand beginning to twitch. "You've seen the power that I possess, and you have your own, almost as great as mine. You know how addictive that feeling is, you'll want more of it and nothing will ever satisfy you nearly as much."
Harry nodded, he wasn't about to lie, they were beyond that now. "You're right, it is addictive. The feeling of absolute control is intoxicating. Just knowing that I can over power or even kill anyone who stands in my way, that's enough to send anyone mad. It makes me feel free and alive.
"But that's where you and I begin to differ. You will stop at nothing to gain and hold onto a little bit more power. You'll cut down anyone who dares try and stand up to you, no matter who they are." Harry was forcing his voice to remain calm and even. "I don't want that life, and I will do anything in my power to avoid being corrupted by it, even if it means killing myself. I want my other life. I want the life that you stole from me. The one I never got to experience. I want my parents alive and proud of me. I want the chance of a normal life, a boring life. Yes Tom, you and I are very similar, and our arrogance will eventually kill us both."
"Do you believe that killing me will bring you that life?" Voldemort sneered at him. "On the off chance you manage to get in the lucky strike that brings me down, you will never be free. You will be the man that slayed the greatest wizard to ever live. You were never destined to be normal, to be boring."
Harry raised his wand then. "That may be so, but at least the rest of the world will be safe. You'll be dead, and the rest of the world can live their lives without the fear of you hanging over them."
In the coming days and weeks Harry would try and piece together what exactly happened next, but even with a Pensieve he could only make out abstract sounds and colours. Even the witnesses that had managed to escape the fighting to watch could only make out the flashes of colliding spells within the protective dome.
The tale of the final battle will be written from many different angles and will highlight many different thoughts, emotions and perspectives. It will go down in history as a tale that no one quite remembers correctly. The one common fact that every story will have though is that one-minute spells were ricocheting off of the edge of the dome and the next it was filling with thick, blood red smoke. The smoke filled the dome shielding the wizards inside from view. It kept rising until the pressure seemed to be too much for it to be contained. The magical barrier exploded into glass like shards they rained down on the spectators.
As the smoke began to clear, two shadows were just visible. One was lying lifeless on the grass and the other was crouching nearby in a kneel. That's when Draco saw it and began to run. It wasn't much just a simple blue reflection from the last of the light before the sun set, it was the glint of a shield. The shield of intent, the shield Harry had taught him all that time ago. When he got to Harry's side, his knees gave way and he pulled Harry tight into his chest.
"Did I do it?" Harry's voice was cracking, and he was covered in soot and blood. "Is he dead?"
"Yes Harry," Draco could feel the tears streaming down his cheeks. "You did it."
"Good." Harry smiled and let himself relax into Draco's arms as the world went black.
Harry woke up in a room that he knew nearly as well as the Gryffindor dorms, he was in the hospital wing. Opening his eyes he saw that he was alone, sectioned of by the hospitals privacy curtains. More importantly by some bizarre twist of fate, he was alive.
Glancing around, he found his wand and glasses on the table next to his bed and suddenly a claustrophobic feeling gripped his chest. He needed out of this bed, out of the hospital and out of the castle. After casting a disillusionment charm on himself and conjuring a note that simply said, 'I'm alive', Harry stepped out from behind the curtain. Madam Pomphrey and Andromeda Tonks were moving between the beds, helping all of their groaning or sleeping patients. Through a window he could just see the first rays of sun on the horizon, Harry needed to feel it. Quietly as he could, he stepped out of the ward and into the deserted corridor.
When he reached the top of the stairs that led to the entrance hall, Harry found people scattered in small groups. They were consoling the openly distraught or mourning those who they had lost. Harry had seen enough yesterday to convince him that the final death toll would be significant. He walked onto the grounds and saw it still stained with blood, whether it was Death Eater or Order, it didn't matter. The castle had seen brutal bloodshed.
When he was far enough away from the castle doors, Harry removed his disillusionment and basked in the morning rays. Paying no attention to where his feet were taking him, Harry walked through the grounds of Hogwarts.
What was his life going to be now? The past 17 years he had been torn between trying to grow up and live a lift while being hunted by a mad man. Now that fight was finally over. It seemed to take forever but then it all seemed to end so abruptly. Was he meant to get a job and a wife now? What would people expect him to do? Did that even matter? Maybe he could just leave the country, change his name and try and start over. Afterall Voldemort was right when he said Harry wouldn't be allowed to live in peace now.
Looking around him, Harry saw his feet had taken him to exactly where he needed to be and hadn't realised it. Standing erect on the far side of the lake was his tent. The place where he had found his focus and his determination. Pushing aside the tent flaps, he say Draco sitting on the sofa, staring into nothing and yet at everything.
"I didn't think it would feel like this." Draco said when Harry sat down next to him. "I thought when it was finally over, I'd feel free and relieved, happy even. But I don't, I'm not happy or sad. I just feel numb."
"I know, me too." Harry took Draco's hand and led them over to their bed.
There were so many questions that needed to be answered and still so much to be done, but for right now, none of that mattered. Life isn't about happy endings with big red bows. Life was hard and more often than not, disappointing. Life was brutally intense with glorious moments scattered throughout to give us hope. Life was about finding that one person who could understand and accept you completely, the good, the bad and the terrifying. Someone to enjoy the glorious moments with and help you survive the rest. For Harry, he had found that in Draco.
As Harry laid Draco down, he thought that this wasn't a tale of epic romance and tender lovers. This was about the only two people who could understand each other. This was a tale of survival.
This wasn't love, but it could be.
AN; Thank you for sticking with me everyone! I know this is left very open, but I have always hated stories that tie everything up with a big red bow. That's just not life and this is always how I planned to end things.
Give Peace a Chance xx