42 - Endings

Lucius let go of her hand as soon as they were in the cave. She glanced at the Noseless One, now standing, looming over them, then she looked away. She couldn't get distracted by how repulsive he was.

She cast a silencing spell on her feet. If she was careful, she should be completely undetected.

The Dark Lord bellowed "WHERE IS SHE?" even as Hermione was moving away from Lucius. He would have to handle the Evil One on his own. She needed to mostly ignore them, although she had to know if and when Snake Nose did something dangerous. She could see a heap of dark cloth by the wall of the cave. That had to be Draco. She moved slowly, carefully, silently, toward the side of the cave.

Draco. She still didn't know what he was up to. Was he loyal to the Noseless One? Was this all some very elaborate head game? Why? She didn't have time to figure this out. Later. For now she would . . .

Then she saw his face. She bit her own arm to stifle the gasp, then she cast a Silencio on herself. Her feet were silenced, but not her voice. How could she be that careless?

Was he dead? He lay on the floor like a tossed away toy, his left arm hanging off of his frame, not properly attached any longer. There was blood on his chin, his face was purpling, but worst of all was the small oval of crimson leaking out from under his head. A skull fracture? Were they too late?

Then she heard him moan. He was alive, but that shaky sound that had escaped him told of utter agony. Now she could see a rising and falling in his robes. Very erratic. She needed to get over there.

She moved as quickly as she could, still noiselessly. If she was detected, it would be over for both of them. Her own breaths were coming too quickly. No one could hear them, but she had to calm herself, be competent, be what he needed.

No. It wasn't about him. It was about defeating the Evil One. Amazing how she didn't want to use Voldemort's name even in her own head.

She needed to be detached. Later, when there was time, when it was over, she could decipher the clues, solve the riddle of Draco Malfoy.

For now, she wouldn't care. Except, how could she not care when he was so broken? Could that be faked?

She was there. He was just a patient, just someone who needed to be repaired. She would help him.

But how? What kind of diagnostic spells could she risk? She couldn't do anything like an Osteo Revelio that would be visible to others in the cave.

She felt a tug, a small feeling on the sleeve of her shirt.

"Miss?" Hermione heard the whisper, barely more than a breath, but something. Nappy?

Something was pressed into her hand. Her wand! Covered by a cloth, a strangely light cloth. The cloak! Where was Nappy? She was gone. This was good. Very good. She was going to need her best magic. She needed her own wand.

Hermione threw the cloak over her shoulders and it brought back so many memories. So many times they had used this cloak. So many times they had taken risks, to do what was right. Somehow the soft weight of the cloak gave her courage. She could do this. WIth the cloak to cover her she could also do legilimency on Draco. That way she could find out what his injuries were in a way that was totally invisible to any bystanders, and she could focus on healing him without worrying about her own disillusionment.

Back to Draco. She took a slow deep breath. She could do this. She could heal him. She slipped the other wand into her sleeve. No point leaving it lying around.

His eyes were closed, but a quick blowing spell caused him to move, to turn his head, ever so slightly toward her. He opened his eyes, and she was in.

Pain. She could feel the pain. Not in her own body, but in his mind. It was overwhelming. Whatever this was, the pain was real. And he knew she was here.

"Don't move. I'm going to heal you." Normally, she would be sure that he would know that, but with the state he was in he might forget, might give them away. "Stay still."

Where was the worst of it?

As she sorted through the throbbing, the aches, the sharp stabbing, Draco was there, all around her, trying to reach her.

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

She ignored the deja vu. He couldn't give up hope.

"No. Harry is coming."

She focused on healing, one thing at a time. Now that she knew where the worst injuries were she could use Torpentum to numb the pain, so it wouldn't be overwhelming for her, or for him. Then she began healing his skull. There was a fracture, but it was a simple one. First, a quick anti-swelling charm on his brain tissue, then Episkey.

He was asking her questions. She wouldn't listen. But now, with the worst of the pain gone, she could feel him. He was pulling at her, like a magnet. He wouldn't stop. Could he have taken the risk of letting his own skull be fractured just to trick her? No one was that stupid. Certainly not Draco.

His shoulder was both dislocated and broken. That was not as straightforward as the skull. Did she have time to look at his other shoulder to see how it should look? In this position . . .

"You need to leave. You can't be here." His mind must be clearing, but not enough to realize how impossible that was. He needed to stop, let her work.

"I can't leave."

She moved his humerus back into place. The numbing spell held. He didn't seem to feel that, although he was . . .

Lucius' scream made them both seize up. Draco's fear was even stronger than her own reaction to the sound. It felt almost as though he was feeling a helpless baby's pain. Obviously, he didn't know that his father was no child. That part wasn't faked either.

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

She should stop responding to him. Just heal. Now that the humerus was in place she summoned a missing piece of it that fit back in like a puzzle piece. It was all there. Episkey.

His cartilage was a mess. But how was his scapula? He kept asking her questions.

She told him to be quiet. Surely he could understand that she needed to focus.

The scapula wasn't broken. She moved his cartilage back into place so she could use an Episkey. One tear healed, then on the other side . . .

He wouldn't stop. She couldn't make him stop, although it was all still within his head.

"Look," he said. "I know what you saw."

He was with Harry. How? When? Harry hadn't told her that he was going to see Draco. They were in a field. It was cold. She had to tell him everything. No. That was his own brain. Veritaserum. It was so strong. Harry was talking. "I thought about doing that, well, something like that, myself."

Then Pansy. They were there. She saw Pansy, lying there, still clothed, but clearly unconscious. Draco was using his wand to paint a bruise on her face.

Pain. It was everything. Everywhere.

Draco expelled her. She wasn't sure if he did that on purpose, but she was out and he was screaming.

She leaned back against her own arms. She was gasping for air. Was it from being thrown out of his mind, from what she had seen or from the sound of his screaming? No matter. She had to pull herself together, calm down. She forced herself to take slower breaths, deeper breaths. She rearranged the cloak. Thank God that she had both the disillusionment and the cloak. Glancing down she noticed that she could see the outline of her own hand. Nappy's disillusionment was failing. No matter. The cloak would hide her.

When had Draco seen Harry? That had to have been where Harry went after their meeting with Kingsley. What did Draco say to him? What did Draco show him? Harry had said that he thought about doing something like that. Could Draco - Malfoy - have invented that? No one knew that. Hermione didn't even officially know that. Harry had never actually told her, but she had seen it. He had been trying to think of how to keep Ginny safe and Hermione had seen the dark thoughts in his eyes. He hadn't needed to spell it out for her. She had shaken her head, let him know he shouldn't go down that path, but they had never discussed it after that, never put into words what possibilities he had considered.

How could Draco have known to invent that? He couldn't have. But that meant . . . that meant that Draco had shown Harry . . . what? That he had attacked Pansy to scare her away? No. Hermione had seen the spell. It was fleeting, but it was there. Draco was painting a bruise on Pansy's face. He hadn't hit her. The bruises were faked. He had obliviated her so that she wouldn't know that he hadn't assaulted her.

The Horrible One stopped his Crucio, but it was all too obvious that he was just catching his breath. He glanced around, checking his troops, most likely wanting to judge their reaction to Draco's torture. Bellatrix, Draco's dear aunt, stood with her arms crossed, face absolutely dispassionate. What a bitch.

Draco was gasping, his chest heaving. What could she do to help him? She cast a quick cooling spell, and tried the Vigorato, hoping she copied Ron's movements right. That should help him be stronger, more ready for the next round. She recast the Torpentum, to numb him. That should be good. And then it began again.

She didn't know what to think. Or maybe she did. He was protecting Pansy. Protecting her like Harry had wanted to protect Ginny.

The truth hit her like being slapped in the face. He loved Pansy.

Why had he kissed her then? Was he just toying with her? Cheating on Pansy? Had he been using her to get information about Pansy? He must have known all along that she was hiding with the Order. What did it mean?

For one thing, it meant he was a jerk. A callous, selfish, complete jerk.

A jerk, but not a monster.

He was on their side. He was helping them. And she would help him. He would never be hers, but she would help him. They would bring down the Dark Lord.

She choked suddenly on a sob that she hadn't felt coming. He wasn't hers. He never would be. But this was so much bigger than that. He was on their side. She had to help him, had to keep him alive.

Harry. Harry needed to come. The Ugly One was distracted. There would be no better time. She grabbed her coin and summoned Harry with all her might. "Come now."

Would it work? Could the message escape the seal?

The Evil One let Draco go. She could see his chest heaving, gulping, trying to pull in air. He needed to breathe. Again, she sent him a cooling spell, another invigorating spell, another numbing spell. Was there a spell to help breathing?

It didn't matter. The Crucio began again. He was screaming, his voice becoming hoarse. Her own throat ached just to remember that horrible feeling. Please Harry. Hurry.

Could Nappy bring . . .

Then Harry was there. He spoke to the Ugly One, calling him by his true name - Tom Riddle. Of course. That's what they should call him.

Riddle was insane, confident, deluded. That was good. Harry seemed utterly sure of himself. Somehow he always managed to go into battle mode.

Draco was, again, tossed aside, catching his breath. His eyes were open, unfocused, but looking in her direction. She stepped closer. This time she would heal him from the outside. She knew what to look for now and she couldn't risk the total distraction of being in his mind, feeling that pain, seeing whatever he wanted to show her. She knew enough to know where his loyalties were.

She cast yet another Torpentum, numbing the back of his head again, and another on his throat. She remembered all too well the effect of all that screaming. The Episkey was holding, but it was probably still tender. He wasn't fully healed. Then she cast the Ambidextrous to help his left arm, left hand. She checked his shoulder. It actually looked much better now.

Her heart was pounding. So much had changed, so quickly. She could treat him. She could care for him. She really had no choice.

She was so focused, she was barely aware of Harry, battling the Evil One. She should have been listening, focusing on something other than healing. She should have realized that she was under a lot of stress. That would cause her to sweat. She should have remembered that she couldn't sweat; she couldn't have a scent. She only heard the tail end of something. "I smell her." "Get her."

There was a delay, too long, before her brain grasped that she herself was "her." Greyback was coming for her. She needed to run, but where? She had to hide somewhere. How? She was already invisible. She needed to go, needed to get away from the wolf.

But there was no time. There was nowhere to go. The beast was on her. He smashed into her, knocked her to the ground, knocked the cloak off of her shoulders. She turned her head away from him. There was nowhere to go. His reeking breath was in her face.

She was almost relieved when he yanked her to her feet. At least now she could back away from him a bit. Then he froze. He had been petrified. She tried to pull away, but no. She was frozen too. There was no escape. How could she have been so foolish? How had he found her?

But she knew. It was the scent.

And the Dark One was doing his worst. He was going to use her against Draco, against Harry. He would use her to destroy them. The glee in his voice as he described his plans was hideous. If she had only been more careful, had remembered that she couldn't have a scent. She had ruined everything.

Then the Snake released his wolf and his teeth were on her skin. It was over.

But he didn't bite her. She felt the scrape, but it didn't puncture. Was the Impervious spell that Lucius had cast enough to protect her? For how long?

And then Ron was there. Distracting Riddle. There was a flash and Hermione shook her head, to shake off the disorientation. She could move!

Another flash and Greyback fell. Hermione stepped away from him and, even as she moved, she felt the cool silk of Harry's cloak covering her. What was going on? Then there was a tug on her hand and she heard Nappy's voice, insistent.

"Miss, Nappy be keeping safe." Nappy had saved her. What a spectacular elf. Hermione followed her, trying to get out of the chaos, get a moment to get her bearings.

"Did you kill him?" Maybe she should have been more specific, but surely the elf would know she was talking about Greyback.

"Is not killing. Elves is not given killing. Is freezing. Is getting Miss away."

A flash of red awakened in Hermione a reflex from somewhere, training, battle? Her shield was up and it bounced away. There was a masked Death Eater glaring past her. That's right. He couldn't see her. Hermione had never mastered the Avada Kedavra, but she shot a slashing spell and the man fell.

Where was Draco? Harry seemed to have things, oddly, under control, and it didn't appear that anyone else could reach either him or Riddle.

Draco, on the other hand, was in no shape to fight. Where was he?

She vanished her smell, pulled the cloak around her and began dodging spells as she searched for him. The cave was now crowded with battling Order members and Death Eaters. She saw Luna fighting off an ugly Death Eater and shot another quick slashing spell to help her. It grazed his arm, and as he turned to see where that had come from, Luna hit him with a silver spell that caused him to fall heavily.

Then she saw Draco, just behind the fallen man. He was shooting a surprisingly fast barrage of Stupefies and just as Hermione stepped over to help, one found its mark and the man Draco had been fighting fell. This she could help with. She took the fallen man's wand and hit him with a quick binding spell, then she disillusioned him and sent him sliding off to the side of the cave. There would be no rejoining the battle for him.

Then there were spells coming at her again. A short fat Death Eater seemed to suspect that someone was there, even though she was invisible. His spells were green, but Hermione ducked and moved to the side. Of course, her aim was better. She could see who she was aiming at. It only took Hermione a couple of minutes to use yet another slashing spell and the man fell.

She caught a glimpse of Harry out of the corner of her eye. Somehow he and . . . Riddle were enclosed on a dome of light, their wands connected by a bright line of something that looked like lightning. Harry was circling, forcing a ball of something - energy?- toward was nothing any of them could do to help, to interfere. Best to just try to deal with the chaos.

Draco was again lost. Hermione glanced around, vanished her own scent, and set off to find him, to help Order members. As she glanced around she saw that Lavender's mother had been killed, nearly decapitated. She locked that away to be dealt with later and continued to search for somewhere to help.

This time she wouldn't make the same mistake. Every few steps she vanished her scent again. She could see the wolf prowling about on the other side of the cave.

Bellatrix was not using the Avada. She was using some sort of slashing spell with a metal grey color. Hermione threw up a shield to protect Oliver Wood as the evil witch cast one toward his back. Oliver turned and went after the dishonorable Death Eater. Hermione was tempted to stay and help him, but he was charging furiously and she didn't want to get in his way.

And she had to find Draco. She vanished her own scent again.

She cast a quick Episkey to stop some bleeding on Neville's arm, just after he took down one of the Lestranges. She marvelled as Kingsley gracefully dodged spells and cast his own Avada to end a tall Death Eater.. She vanished her scent again.

She felt as much as heard a spell coming toward her and ducked away in time to almost completely dodge it. It nicked her cheek, but she quickly cast her own episkey. She was getting quite a bit of practice with that one. She frowned and cast another Abolesco. What if . . .

He was coming. Greyback had found her. He had already smelled her blood. It was gone now. She just had to run, to move. He couldn't see her.

But it didn't matter. He was on her. Again. Using her to taunt Draco. Again.

She barely had time to wonder if this time Greyback's teeth would penetrate her skin when the beast fell.

Lucius was there. He had saved her. She almost fell, disoriented by the quick turn of events. Draco was there to steady her and she closed her eyes and leaned into him. She could pretend he was here for her, not just part of the battle, not just there to help his father.

And then Lucuis was hit and everything changed again. Draco cried out in anguish and tried to catch his father.

Hermione looked to the source of the spell and saw Dolohov's leering face. She shot a Stupefy at the Russian and it collided with the Avada he was firing at the grieving Draco. Before he could shoot another, she threw a blue shield up to protect both of them.

Fortunately, Draco realized that he was under attack. He shook off his trauma to rise and help her. Soon they were both shooting spells at Dolohov. Draco was shooting to kill. Hermione was too, but still not with the Avada Kavadra. A slashing spell would kill him just as thoroughly and it was a spell she was far more comfortable with.

Draco's anger bristled, but his aim was still off from the Crucio's effects lingering in his frame. The best thing to do was to move away from him so that it would be more difficult for Dolohov to defend against both of them. She took several steps away from Draco, all while keeping up her shield, keeping her eyes on Dolohov's every move. She just needed an opening.

Draco must have realized that as he shot a different spell, one that caused a loud "bang" just by Dolohov's head. It was enough to cause a reflexive flinch and Dolohov's focus left Hermione.

That was all she needed. Her spell slashed him from his ear down to his hip. His blood gushed out, enough that she could smell its metallic tinge. He looked up at her shocked, furious and, with his last strength, hurled an Avada at her.

But Draco's shield was faster. It was already there and the green deflected harmlessly away.

She watched Dolohov fall back, his eyes finally empty and blank, then looked at Draco. His eyes weren't on her though.

He was again on his knees next to his father's body. His shoulders were shaking and Hermione saw him begin casting spells. One closed his father's eyes and caused his arms to cross across his chest. Then he disillusioned the older wizard's body.

She took a small step backwards, not wanting to intrude on such a private moment.. There was so much she needed to say to him, but now was not the time to have a heart to heart about his relationship with Pansy.

Then a voice rang out from the middle of the cave "Oy, Hermione! Need some help here!"

She turned to see Ron, who seemed to be part of a bizarre web somehow connected to Harry and Voldemort's on-going battle. WIth a last glance back at Draco, she turned her attention to the strange struggle going on in the middle of the cave. Nothing mattered more than ending Tom Riddle.

AN - Quarantine, etc. may have given some more time to write, but not me. Just finally getting my life under enough control to get back to regular writing. Sorry for the long delay.