I'm aliiiiive

Sorry for the hiatus there, was not feeling funky in the brain.

*thousand-yard stare in mutual childhood trauma*

Anyways, here's the next chapter! A doozy of 30+ pages in Word. And as per usual and to no one's surprise, I've fucked with JKs original work here.

Harry's stomach swooped uncomfortably, his hands clenched into fists at his sides, as the mist dissolved and a dazzling drawing room came into being. A crystal chandelier hung from the ceiling, portraits scowled and glared imperiously against dark purple walls, and an air of undeniable wealth spilled from every corner of the room, suffocating its inhabitants.

Two figures rose from chairs in front of an ornate marble fireplace as Harry, Ron, and Hermione were forced as prisoners into the room by Snatchers.

"Is that-" Remus breathed out in horror, scanning the men who had captured the three teens. "Is that Greyback with you?"

"Oh, Merlin," Marlene echoed his whispered breath.

Some Order members actually took a step back from the memory. It was interesting, if unsurprising, that the werewolf had such a reputation amongst them as well here, Harry noted. They had seen Harry's sixth-year memories as well, and he could only imagine their reactions of Greyback on the loose at Hogwarts.

James looked white at the fact that the werewolf held Harry by the back of his neck. Lily looked equally as horrified beside him.

"They're in the original Malfoy Manor," Sirius announced quietly, recognizing the room.

"Shite," Fred answered.

"Your face- " someone gasped.

"What is this?"

The Order went completely silent.

"They say they've got Potter," said Narcissa's cold voice, amongst the Snatchers. "Draco, come here."

One of the two figures from the fireplace, a figure slightly taller than Harry, crossed the room slowly, his face pale and pointed blur beneath white-blond hair.

"He looks so… different," one of the Order members whispered.

"Like a child," another agreed. 'Child' seemed to echo across the room.

Harry's stomach flipped again, but this time with the remembrance that Harry had killed this world's Draco. Guilt, for a brief moment, reared its striking head, and he felt as if he might be physically sick. Of course, he knew that this world's Draco and his were vastly different, raised in a completely different world, but it was still so jarring to see such weakness in the boy from Harry's memories here. He truly did look wrung out, fearful, and hurting compared to the soldier so determined to defend the Dark Lord's name he'd met here.

Greyback forced Harry to his knees and yanked his head back by his hair so he was directly beneath the chandelier. "Well, boy?" rasped the werewolf.

Order member's eyes widened. "What happened to your face?" James asked.

"Stinging jinx?" George guessed correctly.

Fred grimaced. "That's not comfy."

Harry flinched at the huge, shiny, and pink, inflamed skin that distorted his features courtesy of Hermione's jinx. His black hair reached his shoulders and there was a dark shadow around his jaw. Had he not known that it was he who stood there, he would have wondered who was wearing his glasses.

"I can't … I can't be sure," said Draco. Gaunt cheeks stood out under the shadow of the crystal lights.

"He looks like death," Marlene murmured, and others nodded in agreement.

"Bloody hell, he did, didn't he?" Ron tipped his head to the side as if seeing the young wizard for the first time.

"Almost as bad as us, even," Harry agreed so lightly that only Ron and Lily heard.

"Draco, if we are the ones who hand Potter over to the Dark Lord, everything will be forgiven," Lucius prompted reverently. His eyes were desperate with thin hands shaking.

Dumbledore crossed his hands over his chest, the long sleeves of his robes hiding his hands.

Harry's eyes were drawn to the tight expression on the Headmaster's face, wondering, not for the first time, what the Leader of the Light was getting from Harry's memories. What he was seeing that Harry hadn't been. What more he wanted.

McGonagall turned her face and whispered something in the elder wizard's ear, and Dumbledore nodded absently. His old Head of House turned back to the scene with tight lips and steely eyes.

Thinking of McGonagall and the man who shared his lost mentor's face like that made a shudder run down his back. It still felt all so wrong. Harry swallowed and forced himself to look back at one of the worst memories he had ever lived through.

At least he knew this for what it was.

"What about the Mudblood, then?" growled Greyback. Harry was nearly thrown off his feet as the Snatchers forced Hermione onto her knees next to him so that the light fell on her instead.

It was as if the watching Order members knew that the moment was building into something much uglier. No one said a word.

"Wait," said Narcissa sharply. "Yes- yes, she was in Madam Malkin's with Potter! I saw her picture in the Prophet! Look, Draco, isn't it the Granger girl?"

"I... maybe... yeah."

"Is the boy helping them?" someone asked.

"He's a bleedin Malfoy."

"No, couldn't be," Bill answered vehemently.

"But then, that's the Weasley boy!" shouted Lucius, striding around the bound prisoners to face Ron. "It's them, Potter's friends- Draco, look at him, isn't it Arthur Weasley's son, what's his name?"

"Yeah," said Draco again, his back to the prisoners. "It could be."

"Oh no, definitely helping them," Fred narrowed his eyes.

"But why?" George asked.

"No self-preservation for a snake-" Fred started.

"-in lying for them, is there?" George finished.

Ron's face went slack at the normal back and forth of the twins. He turned his back to them as if not seeing them would help. His brows furrowed, eyes flickering between the memory of Harry and Draco, confusion evident in every line of his face. "I didn't even realize, Malfoy was-"

"Yeah," Harry nodded. "I know."

Because they'd gone to school together for 6 years. Draco knew Hermione and Ron. Intimately between all of their years of school squabbles. He'd known what they looked like. He'd known that the trio never left each other. He'd known it was Harry the whole time. And still, he'd lied.

He had saved all their lives in this moment.

It was one of the reasons Harry had been so vocal about Draco's rather light sentencing from his world. One of the many reasons.

"What in the bleed-" Ron muttered darkly, as if his whole world had been turned inside out.

The drawing room door opened behind Harry. A woman spoke, and the sound of the voice wound Harry's fear to an even higher pitch.

"What is this? What's happened, Cissy?"

"LeStrange," an Order member cursed.

Ron swallowed.

"Not rightly about to get out of this one," someone else agreed.

"Shite," Sirius seemed to agree.

They watched as Bellatrix was told of the situation and an argument broke out about who would have the honor of summoning their Dark Lord. Then suddenly, all at once, Bellatrix stopped arguing, her eyes fixed on a Snatcher, and Lucius ripped up his sleeve in victory.

The air in the room seemed to dip into icy as her eyes burned at the Snatcher. Harry felt as if he could still feel her fury despite knowing he was only in a memory.

"STOP!" shrieked Bellatrix, "Do not touch it, we shall all perish if the Dark Lord comes now!"

Lucius froze, his index finger hovering over his own Mark. Bellatrix strode to the Snatcher and pointed at the claimed sword in his hand.

"Shite," James echoed.

"The sword is supposed to be in Gringotts, right?" Bill asked.

Eyebrows rose in understanding.

"Give it to me."

"It's not yours, missus, it's mine, I reckon I found it."

There was a bang and a flash of red light; Harry knew that the Snatcher had been Stunned. There was a roar of anger from his fellows: Scabior drew his wand.

"Stupefy!" she screamed, "Stupefy!"

She screamed at the only remaining person left, Greyback, at where they'd found the sword. When he revealed that it had been found inside their tent, he was released.

The bound forms of Harry, Hermione, and Ron sat deathly still on their knees throughout it all. They could not move, could not breathe, for they knew they were on a dangerous edge. That the smallest of movements could plunge them into something terrible. And they'd been right.

Harry shivered.

She took the sword and stewed, her mass of curls bouncing with every pace. "If it is indeed Potter, he must not be harmed," she muttered, more to herself than to the others. "The Dark Lord wishes to dispose of Potter himself... But if he finds out... I must... I must know..."

Bellatrix turned back to her sister again. "The prisoners must be placed in the cellar, while I think of what to do!"

"Surprised she didn't just burn the house down with that temper of hers," someone muttered.

"Gods, she thinks you broke into her vault, doesn't she?" Lily turned her eyes away from the scene for a moment to Harry.

"She'll kill you," another added lowly.

Harry swallowed and nodded, but he didn't really care for himself at the moment. Every second he was in this memory was a second closer to what he knew was coming. What he had done. His mistake.

Ron breathed heavily at his side, like it was affecting him just as much- if not more, eyes unmoving from the scene.

Narcissa hesitated for a moment, then addressed the werewolf. "Take these prisoners down to the cellar, Greyback."

"Escape," Remus whispered, his eyes glued to the other werewolf.

"Not good odds on that, Lupin," Mad-Eye said, his magical eye whirling across the room.

"Just-" Tonks shook her head, and crossed her over her stomach like she was holding herself up, "-run. As fast as you can."

Harry looked to his feet. This was it.

"Wait," said Bellatrix sharply. "All except... except for the Mudblood."

Greyback gave a grunt of pleasure.

A shiver ran down Harry's spine.

"No," Lily whispered.

McGonagall sighed heavily, her face falling into something resigned, and the Order members shuffled amongst themselves, eyes muted. It did not escape Harry that the thought of torture for them was something they all seemed to endure without a word. Something deep within him turned sour.

Ron's hands clenched into fists. He stared at the memory as if it was his duty to watch. His eyes were hard, jaw tense. He did not turn away. Harry didn't think anything could make him.

"No!" shouted Ron. "You can have me, keep me!"

Bellatrix hit him across the face: the blow echoed around the room.

Mrs. Weasley flinched.

"If she dies under questioning, I'll take you next," she said. "Blood traitor is next to Mudblood in my book. Take them downstairs, Greyback, and make sure they are secure but do nothing more to them- yet."

She threw Greyback's wand back to him, then took a short silver knife from under her robes. She cut Hermione free from the other prisoners, then dragged her by the hair into the middle of the room, while Greyback forced the rest of them to shuffle across to another door, into a dark passageway.

"She's my daughter's age," someone whispered under their breaths to another Order member.

"I'm glad she's not here to see this," Marlene said.

Sirius held his wife closer to him and kept silent.

Ron was shaking. They were forced down a steep flight of stairs, and at the bottom was a heavy door. Greyback unlocked it with a tap of his wand, then forced them into a dank and musty room, leaving them in total darkness. The echoing bang of the slammed cellar door had not died away before there was a terrible, drawn-out scream from directly above them.

Order members flinched at the sound. Eyes were drawn away from the moment. Some looked as if the floor had been swept from beneath them and were lost in their memories.

"HERMIONE!" Ron bellowed, and he started to writhe and struggle against the ropes. "HERMIONE!"

Marlene shook her head like she couldn't stand the sound, and bowed her neck.

Sirius's knuckles were white, clutched in her robes as if he could pull her even tighter against him.

Fred and George stood like watch towers. There was no joke to be found, and no way to break the horrible moment they were submerged in.

"Be quiet!" Harry said. "Shut up. Ron, we need to work out a way-"


"We need a plan, stop yelling! We need to get these ropes off- "

"Calm under pressure, Potter. Good. Constant vigilance," Mad-Eye seemed to nod in approval.

Harry felt it was like being thanked by dumping sludge over his shoulders. Gross and callous.

Sirius caught his words and his face turned into something terrible. "Are you fucking-"

"Harry?" came a whisper through the darkness. "Ron? Is that you?"

Heads snapped up.

Sirius stopped.

Mr. Weasley cocked his head to the side. "Is that, no- is that Luna Lovegood?" he asked.

Ron stopped shouting. There was a sound of movement close by them, then Harry saw a shadow moving closer.

"Harry? Ron?"

" Luna?"

"Yes, it's me! Oh no, I didn't want you to be caught!"

Tonks frowned. "So when Luna was kidnapped during Christmas, she'd been there the whole time?"

Harry nodded. "Yes, and-"

Hermione screamed again from overhead, and they could hear Bellatrix screaming too, but her words were inaudible, for Ron shouted again, "HERMIONE! HERMIONE!"

Harry flinched this time, he couldn't help it. They couldn't see what Bellatrix was doing to her, but he knew. His friend bore the marks of Bellatrix's madness to this day, and would for every day after. A cursed blade was not easily fixed, even by the best of healers.

And that pounding in his head was demanding his guilt with every complicit moment. She was crying out. His best friend. Hermione. He didn't want to hear this again. Merlin, this was his fault.

Lily grabbed his hand.

Harry didn't hesitate this time, he didn't even think about it. He closed his fingers around hers and hung on. Like her warmth could keep him sane. He clenched his jaw as Hermione's screams echoed, only getting louder.

"Mr. Ollivander?" Harry could hear Luna saying. "Mr. Ollivander, have you got the nail? If you just move over a little bit... I think it was beside the water jug."

"...Ollivander's here too? Zhe wand maker, no?" a french sounding witch asked quietly.

"Their wand connection," someone reminded, just as soft. "You-know-who must have grabbed him for it."

From upstairs they heard Bellatrix's voice. "I'm going to ask you again! Where did you get this sword? WHERE!?"

They could see nothing of her torment, but her screams reverberated through the basement, sinking into the brinks and shadows of the room. The raw scrape of her vocals reached a pitch that they had never heard.

"We found it- we found it- PLEASE!" Hermione screamed again.

Ron shuddered and hung his head, eyes closed. He looked as if he was about to be sick.

Harry kept one hand with Lily but used the other to grab at his friend's shoulder. He held him then, with a death grip on Ron's robes, grounding not only the redhead but himself as well.

A few seconds later, Luna found Ron's Deluminator, there was a click, and the luminescent spheres the magical object had sucked from the lamps in the tent flew into the cellar: Unable to rejoin their sources, they simply hung there, like tiny suns, flooding the underground room with light. Harry saw Luna, all eyes on her white face, and the motionless figure of Ollivander the wandmaker, curled up on the floor in the corner. Craning around, he caught sight of their fellow prisoners: Dean and Griphook the goblin, who seemed barely conscious, kept standing by the ropes that bound him to the humans.

"The goblin?" Remus frowned.

"The one from the tent-"

"And Dean too."

"-they were caught at some point?"

From above came Bellatrix's screeching voice. "You're lying, you FILTHY Mudblood, and I know it! You have been inside my vault at Gringotts! Tell the truth, TELL THE TRUTH!"

Another terrible scream.

Ron was as unmoving as a brick wall, his jaw flexing, the barest of twitches beneath his eye per scream.


Harry could do nothing but hold on, for the both of them.

"What else did you take? What else have you got? Tell me the truth or, I swear, I shall run you through with this knife!"

Hermione's horrible scar came into Harry's mind. MUDBLOOD carved into flesh forevermore. The barbaric impressions of Bellatrix's cruelty.

MUDBLOOD, the word seemed to hammer in Harry's ears at every blood-rushing moment his friend endured.

Harry felt the ropes fall away and turned, rubbing his wrists, to see Ron running around the cellar, looking up at the low ceiling, searching for a door.


"There's no way out, Ron," said Luna, watching his fruitless efforts. "The cellar is completely escape-proof. I tried, at first. Mr. Ollivander has been here for a long time, he's tried everything."


"What else did you take, what else? ANSWER ME! CRUCIO!"

Wizards and witches alike flinched. Those who were parents hung their heads.

Lily's hand was a vice, unwilling and unable to release Harry's own, and Ron stood through it all with a face like pale death.

His brick stance tempered into steel, and his loathing burned into something fiercer. He blinked and Harry saw the change. Of vengeance and blazing hatred.

For the first time, Harry saw the promise of murder on his friend's face.


From behind Ron, Mrs. Weasley came to the youngest redhead's side as if she couldn't stay away any longer.

She reached out a hand to him, hesitated with shaking fingers, then brought it down gently on the back of his neck, cupping the steel flesh that he'd transformed into. She stepped closer as if to pull his taller frame down, and stood before him in a mother's embrace.

Ron's head barely turned at the feeling, but Harry watched as he blinked, once, twice- then again, and saw the matron past his haze. He blew out a fierce breath- and Mrs. Weasley wordlessly tipped her head to the side, accepting all parts of him with trembling lips and her own watering eyes.

I know , she seemed to say, and Harry could very nearly hear the exact tone she used as she looked at Ron. Oh, my baby. I know.

I know.

Ron shuddered as Hermione screamed louder still around them.

Her hand tightened, and Ron fell downward an inch. Look at me , Mrs. Weasley's face said as she wrapped her other hand over his neck so she held him securely in her arms.

Look at me , she didn't say, but did. I will protect you.

She clutched him to her, fingers digging in and grounding.

Let me protect you from this, my baby. Let me help.

Ron flinched, and then something gave out in his shoulders. He fell forward, and his back hunched as his temple landed on her waiting shoulder, giving in and giving up.

Harry released his grip, and his friend's hand came around to clutch at the woman that was his mother, and not.

Hermione's screams echoed off the walls upstairs. Ron was half sobbing as he pounded the walls with his fists, -

Harry couldn't be sure Ron here was not-

and Harry in utter desperation seized Hagrid's pouch from around his neck and groped inside it: the mirror fragment fell sparkling to the floor, and he saw a gleam of brightest blue waiting for him on the other side.

Eyes widened. Ron did not look up, and neither did the matriarch.

But the Order leaned forwards as one. Someone was looking back through the mirror at the memory of Harry. Someone could help.

"Is that-"

"DUMBLEDORE!" an Order member cried.

There was a roar of voices.

"Don't be daft, he's dead, remember?" Another argued.

"Help us!" Harry yelled at it in mad desperation. "We're in the cellar of Malfoy Manor, help us!"

The eye blinked and was gone.

"No!" Remus yelled as if he could call the memory back.

Upstairs Hermione was screaming worse than ever, and next to him Ron was bellowing, "HERMIONE! HERMIONE!"

Tonks started to cry.

Lily held Harry's hand so tightly his fingers could fall off, but he didn't care.

He watched as Tonks utterly broke down in front of him. Huge heaving gasps and a hunched back, she ducked her head and let her pitch black hair cover her eyes, trembling. Harry's heart ached. She looked at him as if she wished to die.

He shivered.

Remus took a step forward, then stopped. His other foot jerked him closer like it was completely separate from his body, and then he flinched when her sobs echoed Hermione's screams in a duet made of nightmares.

"How did you get into my vault?" they heard Bellatrix scream. "Did that dirty little goblin in the cellar help you?"

"We- we- please, we only met him tonight!" Hermione sobbed. "We've never been inside your vault... It isn't even the real sword! It's a copy, just a COPY!"

"Smart girl," Mad-Eye said, and no one could comment.

"A copy?" screeched Bellatrix. "Oh, a likely story!"

Remus put aside whatever was keeping him away, and lunged at his wife in another world, his separated girlfriend here, wrapping her tight against his chest. Holding her as if she was the most precious thing in the world.

Tonks did not bother with anger, Harry saw, she was too far gone. Her face was of sorrow so deeply felt, he could not look away. It was as if her whole soul screamed.

It wasn't for herself, he realized in the same moment. No one could feel such agony for themselves like this. She had-

"Tonks and I lost our child to a surprise Death Eater raid-" Remus had said months ago.

Order members close enough to watch gave the witch pitying glances or hunched their own shoulders away as if her grief could catch.

Harry suddenly knew just how Tonks had lost her baby, and who had probably caused it. She flinched at every scream that was wrenched from Hermione's body.

He felt as if he was going to be sick again. He couldn't swallow properly.

"But we can find out easily!" came Lucius's voice. "Draco, fetch the goblin, he can tell us whether the sword is real or not!"

Harry wasted no time and dashed across the cellar to where the goblin was huddled on the floor.

No one dared to speak as the memory of Harry desperately thought of a way to freedom. To his friend.

"Griphook," he whispered into the goblin's pointed ear, "you must tell them that sword's a fake, they mustn't know it's the real one, Griphook, please-"

"Merlin," someone breathed.

Ron clicked off the lights, and Malfoy marched inside, wand held out in front of him, pale and determined. He seized the little goblin by the arm and backed out again, dragging Griphook with him.

The door slammed shut and at the same moment, a loud CRACK echoed inside the cellar.

The Order froze amongst the darkness. Harry was close enough to see Lily tip her head to the side in thought. "Was that-" she said, "-Disapparation?"

Ron clicked the Deluminator. Three balls of light flew back into the air from his pocket, revealing Dobby the house-elf, who had just Apparated into their midst.

Those on both ends of reality took in the small elf for a split second in absolute wonder before pandemonium broke through.

It felt like someone had sucker punched Harry straight in the chest, stopping his heart for a moment and restarting his breath. Gods, it was Dobby.


"Potter, isn't that your-"


"DOB-!" Harry hit Ron on the arm to stop him from shouting, and Ron looked terrified at his mistake, but no noises above them let them know that they'd been heard.

Dobby's enormous, tennis-ball-shaped eyes were wide; he was trembling from his feet to the tips of his ears. "Harry Potter," he squeaked in the tiniest quiver of a voice, "Dobby has come to rescue you."

"How did-"

"The wards-"

"-elf magic, of course. Previous Master's house, innit?"

"You can Disapparate out of this cellar?" Harry whispered desperately to Dobby, who nodded, his ears flapping.

"Good boy," was said, but this time, it was James.

Harry immediately felt a stroke of pride amongst the sickness in his heart. Then shame. If he'd just listened-

"And you can take humans with you?"

Dobby nodded again.

"Right. Dobby," Harry said, wetting his parched lips. "I want you to grab Luna, Dean, and Mr. Ollivander, and take them-" he breathed like he'd run a marathon, "take them-"

"They've already nowhere to go," someone whispered.

"Bill and Fleur's," said Ron, breathing just as heavily. "Shell Cottage on the outskirts of Tinworth!"

Bill's brows rose. Some looked to him as if he had any idea what was going to happen next.

The elf nodded for the third time.

"And then come back," Harry ordered, too frightened and tired to do much more than keep his voice at a hoarse whisper, but his green eyes burned. "Can you do that, Dobby?"

Harry watched as the memory of Dobby seemed to inhale bravery just at the sight of the scruffy, jinxed, face of his hero. Like it was the only thing keeping him on his terrified feet and getting stronger for it.

Like he'd die for him.

Dobby's eyes then burned just as brightly back.

"Of course, Harry Potter," whispered the little elf. "For you."

"Merlin and Morgana," someone whistled. "That there is the loyalist little-"

But others had seen it as a strategic move.

"House Elves! Of course! Their magic works differently- doesn't it? They could-"

Harry's scar burned worse than ever, and whatever had been said between those being rescued was pushed away. " Go!" Harry beseeched to Luna and Dean. "Go! We'll follow, just go!"

Some of the Order watched on. Others had a new tactic for the War and fed on it.

They caught hold of the elf's outstretched fingers. There was another loud CRACK, and Dobby, Luna, Dean, and Ollivander vanished.

"What was that?" shouted Lucius Malfoy from over their heads. "Did you hear that? What was that noise in the cellar?"

Then all of the Order was silent.

Harry and Ron stared at each other.

"Wormtail! Go and check!"

Harry's eyes widened. Wormtail. How had he forgotten this? When he'd-

James saw Harry's face and came to his other side, releasing his wife's hand. "Harry?" He asked softly. "Pup?"

Sirius's face flattened into a hatred that seemed to fill the room. The air itself felt as if it was thickening.

"Padfoot-" Remus started, warning. His girlfriend was still buried in his chest, and his chin rested on her head.

Footsteps crossed the room overhead, then there was silence. Harry knew that the people in the drawing room were listening for more noises from the cellar.

Harry watched as the memory of himself made a plan within moments.

"We're going to have to try and tackle him," he whispered to Ron.

Members nodded in agreement.

"No wand, again-" Lily said as her jaw clenched, and Harry wondered for a brief moment if she was thinking of when their counterparts had been murdered. James too had been without a wand. Because of the man that was currently coming down to Harry in his memory.

"Leave the lights on," Harry ordered again, voice low. They flattened themselves against the wall by the door.

"Smart," Kingsley approved.

Harry's stomach was too wrapped into knots to do more than breathe through the next moments.

"Stand back," came Wormtail's voice. "Stand away from the door. I'm coming in."

"Rat," Sirius hissed venomously.

The door flew open. For a split second, Wormtail gazed into the apparently empty cellar, ablaze with light from the three miniature suns floating in midair. Then Harry and Ron launched themselves upon him. Ron seized Wormtail's wand arm and forced it upwards. Harry slapped a hand to his mouth, muffling his voice.

Silently they struggled: Wormtail's wand emitted sparks; his silver hand then closed around Harry's throat.

Harry felt James's hand clench his own, horror and hatred at the wizard strengthening his grip. Lily's grip was just as crushing in his other. He wouldn't have working hands after this, he thought from the back of his mind, but that was alright.

Harry could barely breathe. "You're going to kill me?" he choked, attempting to pry off the metal fingers. "After I saved your life?" He huffed a strangled breath.

Harry watched as the colors in the memory of Harry's eyes flashed- something bright, something unordinary, something powerful and magical all in one moment. They nearly glowed, and Harry's draw dropped.

"You oweme, Wormtail!"

Lily sucked in a shocked breath.

James went the other way and seemed to have choked on his inhale.

In fact, the entirety of the Order paused, like they couldn't believe their ears for a moment.

Harry didn't see the big deal. What was it called- calling in a life debt? Handy actually, though he hadn't known what he was doing in the first place.

He watched as the Order seemed to look between him and the memory in disbelief. Maybe it was a cultural thing? Weird.

The silver fingers slackened. Harry had not expected it: He wrenched himself free, astonished, keeping his hand over Wormtail's mouth. He saw the ratlike man's small watery eyes widen with fear and surprise: He seemed just as shocked as Harry at what his hand had done.

"Brutal," Fred and George said in unison.

"And we'll have that," whispered Ron, tugging Wormtail's wand from his other hand.

The twin's eyebrows went skyward at the nonchalance of their almost-brother.

"I underestimated you, Potter," Mad-Eye said evenly.

Wandless, helpless, Pettigrew's pupils dilated in terror. His eyes had slid from Harry's face to something else. His own silver fingers were moving inexorably toward his own throat.

James shook his head, not at all disturbed by one of his former friends starting to strange himself. "Don't know why I'm surprised," he said, "After fending off as many dementors you did in your third year- of course you would call a life debt like it's nothing."

"I like it," Sirius tipped his head at the scene, just as at ease. "No fancy words from stuffed-up old geezers filled with self-importance and flowery words. Just down and done." He made an impressed face. "Modern."

Harry looked to Ron, who had lifted his head up from 's shoulder and colored under Harry's gaze. Maybe for his moment with Mrs. Wealey, but most likely because of whatever this was. Ron swallowed and gave him an apologetic smile. Harry frowned, understanding that he was missing something and on his own. "I'm confused," he admitted honestly.

"No-" Wormtail gazed in horror as his own hand opened and slowly came closer.

"Calling a life debt's serious magic," Bill Weasley answered, eyes riveted to the moment. "It's normally done as a type of incantation. Almost a song-"

"Very flowery, like I said-" Sirius butted in.

"-And hard to do," James agreed, "because your will is dominating another's when it's done. Overpowering their instincts and sense of survival with something you want instead."

Harry's jaw dropped. "What?"

"It's basically the foundation of pure-blood arguments. Having magic that's powerful enough to completely overtake another. Magic is Might, all that crap," Sirius added.

"I-" Harry started, and he felt suddenly cold at a stray thought from it all. "Did I somehow use Imperius on him to- to-"

Because that's what this sounded like. He'd made Wormtail kill himself because of a life debt? He hadn't wanted that.

Had he?

"Oh- no, no, no!" James shook his head and released Harry's hand so he could instead face him and ignore the slowly suffocating rat animagus behind.

Harry blinked at the movement. His back was completely turned on the death of Peter. He didn't understand. What was he doing? It didn't make sense. Didn't they want to watch-

With the air of a professor beginning class, James looked down through his circular glasses at Harry and began to speak with a confidence Harry had only ever felt on the back of a broom. "When one comes back from the brink of death," the Marauder started seriously, "Death leaves a Mark. Always." He paused as if for Harry to soak in the gravity of the statement. "Maybe they get away mentally unscathed as most do, or maybe with visions of the moment over and over- trauma- or suddenly seeing ghosts that have yet to truly pass- maybe something even darker, but the Mark is embedded into our souls until we die. Those born with magic, like us, recognize Death's Mark instinctually, our magic feels it. As our magic can feel it, then it can physically affect us."

Marked. Harry was at a loss. "Death's Mark is a physical thing?" he asked, mind whirling, because wow he probably had a few patches on him with how often-

"Souls are not physical beings, yet they are what they are. So no, but yes. It exists on a different plane of- you know what, don't ask me more on it- I honestly don't get it myself- your mother knows more than I- but," he hurried and shook his head as if to stay on topic. "The point is, when a magic user saves another magic user's life, magic can feel Death's Mark. What should have been Death's gain but wasn't, leaves a type of power behind. Not quite Magic, not quite Death. It is an agreement between the one who was saved and the one who did the saving that their life is owed," he furrowed his brows, "do you understand?"

That sounded suspiciously like an Unbreakable Vow. So, no. Not at all. "I-"

Wormtail was slowly turning blue behind them. Eye's bursting red veins.

Harry looked from his father to Wormtail, and then back. This was all insane. "That's impossible, harnessing Death like that. Even the Hallows have a limit. You can't-"

"It's not harnessing," James dismissed firmly, "-but rather following a law of exchange."

Harry blinked again. What the hell was going on? The rest of the Order was transfixed on the suffocating traitor in his memory, but Harry was getting a philosophical lesson on Death?

Lily stood silently beside her husband and watched the present Marauders with lighter eyes. She, too, ignored the scene behind.

"Think Yin - Yang. Light and Dark. Water and Fire-" Sirius said, turning his back on the memory and focusing his attention thoroughly with James on Harry.

"Equivalence," Remus added without announcement.

"Oh, well said. Ever the Alchemist," Sirius grinned.

Remus' eyes flattened. "Eat fleas, you-"

" Anyways," James returned attention back to his explanation with an indulgent sigh, "calling on a life debt is extremely difficult to do because it's not quite Magic and not quite Death. It's more of an honor thing in everyday life, just like it is for muggles saving each other's lives, but if a magic user is strong enough, or if Death blesses it-" Harry cringed, and James smiled in apology, "- then a life debt may physically be called into being."

"'You owe me'," Sirius reenacted dramatically, and even his wife grinned.

Wormtail had dropped to his knees, coloring purple behind them, and the memory of Harry and Ron were trying to remove his fingers from his neck.

Harry blinked away Wormtails dying face.

"Your magic is powerful, and it crushed W- Pettigrew's," Remus explained, "when he tried to kill you. He was working against an equivalent exchange. So you called on a life debt, and the debt answered. He's paying for it." The hard clench of his jaw softened at Harry. "It's impressive, and not likely to ever be seen in a lifetime. That's why they're watching so closely. It truly is an act of Magic."

Harry was floored. He'd no idea that simply- acknowledging the fowl wizard's debt could lead to death. He swallowed. A cultural thing- he'd been right. Something Ron knew but Harry was out of touch with, again. He blinked and didn't know how to feel. Pride, maybe? No- he'd still- it was still his fault- he-

Harry looked up and met the softening eyes of Remus. He was not as 'relaxed' as his two childhood friends seemed to be in their group, and he still held Tonks under his chin securely, who was also watching them silently with a hunted gaze, but he looked almost like the Remus Harry had left behind. Warm, understanding, and accepting of the jagged.

Harry unconsciously relaxed.

Wormtail was finally still.

Harry's gaze shifted to the body of the man who had ruined his life. Who had betrayed his closest friends. Who had died like he had lived his life: defeated by his own moral and magical ineptitude.

James held onto Harry's shoulder from his earlier explanation and Harry could only lengthen the moment he watched the rat's dead body. The memory would move on now. Just as it always had, too fast and not fast enough.

"Harry?" James asked, coming into his vision, and Harry blinked. "Alright there?"

He vaguely motioned to the floor, and quietly so that the rest of the Order didn't overhear them, he answered, "Doesn't it... bother you? At all? He murdered your Har-"

"Ah," the buck animagus breathed deeply out. He paused. Then- "No. It's not that we- I- don't care how he died in your world," James stated, and Harry found his eyes. "Because I do. Even more so because you went through it without... well, me, or an adult looking out for you," he squeezed his shoulder, and Harry felt Lily gently squeeze his hand on the other side, "it's just that-" he sighed, and paused again. Harry was then even more confused.

"I don't want to see it yet," Sirius bit out, surprising Harry enough to nearly jump. His voice had lowered into something Harry didn't recognize, like an actual dog's growl. "I don't want to have to watch and feel the satisfaction of his death yet."

Harry fought a shiver. Sirius sounded wild. Like the underbelly of nature. Filled with bloodlust and the edge of the hunt.

"I want to be there for it when he truly dies here. Not in the reflection of another world. In front of me. With me."

Harry and Ron looked at each other, then leaving Wormtail's body on the floor behind them, ran up the stairs and back into the shadowy passageway leading to the drawing room.

"We'll be there, together, when we watch Pettigrew die," Remus stated just as lowly, if colored in a different shade of viciousness.

Lily grimaced, but not because of the werewolf's words. "When that rat begs for death, pound for pound in flesh-" she said so quietly it must have been a whisper but caused Harry further shivers, "it won't be by a silver hand I give him." And Harry watched her with widening eyes. "He will know my pain."



Cautiously they crept along it until they reached the drawing-room door, which was ajar. Now they had a clear view of Bellatrix looking down at Griphook, who was holding Gryffindor's sword in his long-fingered hands.

And Merlin, did Harry then feel - wrong. Cheap, almost.

"I think I killed him," Harry admitted to them, eyes lowering. He had taken their vengeance away, and it left an uncomfortable hole in his chest because he could understand, if only a little, what that must feel like. "At Malfoy Manor, they'd driven him insane and I left him in the basement when I-"

"Well?" Bellatrix said to Griphook. "Is it the true sword?"

'Set the Manor to flame', couldn't come to his lips.

"Rogan Malfoy escaped. The rat would not have been far behind," Remus stated as if that were fact.

"No," said Griphook. "It is a fake."

Lily nodded along with Remus. "A toy for them, but only for them to destroy as well." She squeezed his hand lightly. "He's alive." Like it was a reassurance.

"Are you sure?" panted Bellatrix. "Quite sure?"

"Yes," said the goblin.

Relief broke across her face, all tension drained from it.

Harry swallowed and moved his attention back to the memory they had been ignoring. He sighed, and his shoulders dropped.

Hermione was lying at Bellatrix's feet. She was barely stirring.

James knocked a lean arm into him, sending something warm and cared for straight through him to his toes. He knocked his arm back against the older wizard just as lightly and saw James grin from the corner of his eye.

Bellatrix pushed back her sleeve and touched her forefinger to the Dark Mark. The call for her master had begun.

Harry's eyes rolled into the back of his head at the pain.

"Christ," Lily grimaced and hung onto Harry harder.

Harry's eyes fell to the limp form of Hermione on the floor. His stomach twisted, and nausea threatened to make itself known. He had forgotten how still she had been- how for a split second Harry had thought that they were too late.

"And I think," said Bellatrix's voice, "we can dispose of the Mudblood. Greyback, take her if you want her."

Tonks flinched.

Remus held her closer, jaw clenched. A wild look crossed over his features- the closest thing he looked to his animal form outside of the full moon.

"NOOOOOOOOOOOO!" Ron had burst into the drawing-room; Bellatrix looked around, shocked. She turned her wand to face Ron.

"Run," someone whispered.

Get out, the message was clear amongst the group. Get out and live.

"Expelliarmus!" Ron roared, pointing Wormtail's wand at Bellatrix, and hers flew into the air and was caught by Harry, who had sprinted after Ron.

Lucius, Narcissa, Draco, and Greyback wheeled about; Harry yelled, "Stupefy!" and Lucius Malfoy collapsed onto the hearth. Jets of light flew from Draco's, Narcissa's, and Greyback's wands; Harry threw himself to the floor, rolling behind a sofa to avoid them.

"Not bad," Mad-Eye stated.

Sirius choked like he was offended.

"Brilliant's more like it," George raised a ginger brow.

Harry ducked his head a little at the comment.

"Seeker skills shining through right about now-" his twin followed up.


Both sides of the memory froze, those living through the moment and those watching at their sides.

Panting, Harry peered around the edge of the sofa. Bellatrix was supporting Hermione, who seemed to be unconscious, and was holding her short silver knife to Hermione's throat.

"Oh my gods, her arm," Marleen gasped.

And Harry didn't want to see it- he didn't- not again, but his eyes followed with a mind of its own and he saw.


The word was scoured into her once smooth flesh. Jagged bloody cuts, dug deep without care and bleeding freely, spread across the entirety of Hermione's inner left arm, showcasing the slur in terrible, retching detail.

"Oh, that poor child," Lily whispered, clutching at Harry's hand like she could pull him away from it.

Harry himself felt that he was going to be sick. Violent. Murderous. Something truly awful to match the feelings rolling through his chest at the sight of her mangled arm.

An arm that was still healing months after the end of the war, and would probably never truly be well.

"Drop your wands," she whispered. "Drop them, or we'll see exactly how filthy her blood is!"

Because of Bellatrix, because of him.

"I said, drop them!" she screeched, pressing the blade into Hermione's throat: Harry saw beads of blood appear there.

What were they to do instead? Cause her more pain? They dropped the wands. Draco came to collect them.

The Order was silent.

"Now," said Bellatrix 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."

The silence was tense amongst those watching. There was no way out. Nothing to try unless something-

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 was directly beneath it; dropping Hermione, she 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, who still clutched the sword of Gryffindor. Glittering shards of crystal flew in all directions; Draco doubled over, his hands covering his bloody face.

Things were happening too fast for the Order members to do much more than watch. This was it, and they all felt it.

Ron lunged to pull Hermione out of the wreckage. Harry took the chance: He leaped over an armchair and 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.

Lily's head tipped to the side in thought. "All three wands changed allegiance?"

"Honestly," Sirius raised a brow, "raise your hand if you're surprised. Even in the slightest."

Whether it was from honest thought or ignoring the Marauder, no one raised their hand.

Bellatrix sprang to her feet, her hair flying as she brandished the silver knife.

Narcissa dragged Draco out of the way of further harm and directed her wand at the doorway. "Dobby!" she screamed and even Bellatrix froze. "You! You dropped the chandelier?"

"Good on 'em!" both of the Prewett twins cheered.

The tiny elf trotted into the room, his shaking finger pointing at his old mistress.

Some in the Order shook their heads in disbelief at the elf, probably thrown at the sheer disrespect he presented.

Harry thought, and forever would, that the terrified elf was the greatest thing he'd ever seen.

"You must not hurt Harry Potter," Dobby squeaked through his terror.

"Kill him, Cissy!" shrieked 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.

Nearly every witch and wizard in the room gasped or gaped.

"He goes too far!" A wizard Harry vaguely recognized from around Hogwarts cried.

"'E must be punished!" the French witch from earlier echoed. There was a grumble of agreement, someone even making a comment to James that he watch out for this world's version of Dobby.

Anger, whip-like and fiery as dragon's breath slashed across Harry. After what this elf was doing for them- how scared and still so strong, to only try and help in their most desperate time of need-

How- how dare they?

Before Harry could open his mouth and yell- shout- ruin them, the moment moved forwards.

"You dirty little monkey!" bawled Bellatrix. "How dare you take a witch's wand, how dare you defy your masters?"

None of the Order made noise, as if agreeing with her and their previous statements would poison them.

Harry grimaced, disgusted. Ron mirrored him, and Lily squeezed his hand again.

"Dobby HAS no master!" squealed the elf. "Dobby is a free elf, and Dobby has come to save Harry Potter and his- his friends!"

Harry's chest swelled.

The tiny house elf stood so tall, so resolute and determined. Pride, like nothing he'd felt before filled him. That was his friend. Dobby, the house elf, first of the free Elves.

And as quickly as the pride had come, sadness followed. For the First of Free Elves was going to have his last moment here.

Another life taken following Harry Potter.

Harry took the distraction with both hands. "Ron, catch and GO!" he yelled, throwing one of the wands to him. Then he bent down to tug Griphook out from under the chandelier. Hoisting the groaning goblin, who still clung to the sword, over one shoulder, Harry seized Dobby's hand and spun on the spot to Disapparate.

Bellatrix moved.

This time, Harry saw the small knife, glinting, as it left her hand and soared.


And then they hit solid earth and smelled salty air. Harry fell to his knees, relinquished Dobby's hand, and attempted to lower Griphook gently to the ground.

But the Order could see past one's own perspective and saw the jutting knife lodged in the house elf's chest as Dobby was released from Harry's grip.

Some gasped again, but this time within a different shade of horror.

It was as if the entire assembly of people released a sorrowful breath at once. What happiness was gained from the memory of their escape was lost in the same second. It was a mortal wound, all knew, and the loyalist house elf to ever have lived was about to die.

"Are you all right?" Harry panted as the goblin stirred, but Griphook merely whimpered.

The landscape was dark around them, they had landed sometime in the night. None of his friends were in the area, and Harry still had yet to turn around.

"Dobby, is this Shell Cottage?" he whispered, clutching the two wands he had brought from the Malfoys', ready to fight if he needed to. "Have we come to the right place? Dobby?"

Harry's eyes did not leave the frozen-looking elf swaying atop the sand.

He looked around. The little elf stood feet from him.

Harry could see his own eyes in the memory and the exact moment that his past self saw the knife. A grief crossed over his face that cut Harry to his own core, remembering exactly how it felt. He'd known then, known that there was no saving him. Nothing could be done- and the crushing agony of losing another person he held close to his heart came crashing in after.

Dobby had been his friend. His first introduction to House Elves, and one of the first friendships outside of Ron and Hermione that he'd cherished.

And in a moment, too fast for his past to see, it was over.


Harry watched as his younger self lunged for the House Elf and fell to his knees beside him. One of the borrowed wands was immediately pointed at the suddenly pouring wound, and Dobby collapsed against Harry.

"Dobby, no, don't die, don't die-"

There was a solemn silence amongst those watching. The passage for a warrior, fighting in their last moment.

The elf's eyes found him, and his lips trembled with the effort to form words. "H-Harry... Potter..."

Harry's eyes watered, but he did not look away.

And then with a little shudder, the elf became quite still, and his eyes were nothing more than great glassy orbs, sprinkled with light from the stars they could not see.

And then those watching were whisked away.

The environment melted into blue mist, but the melancholy atmosphere did not go with it.

A seventeen-year-old girl had been tortured.

A Free Elf had been killed.

And still, there were horcruxes to destroy and stories to be told.

Harry's shoulders slumped, his exhaustion tenfold after the last set of memories, and he felt Lily's eyes on him from the side but was too tired to fake even a smile for her.

Wisps of memories churned around the group, not quite settling, not quite moving on either. For a moment, Harry saw himself standing over a freshly filled grave with the words:


Then in the next moment, talking to a healing Griphook.

When the wisps moved again, only the sound of several voices was heard.

"The Dark Lord no longer seeks the Elder Wand only for your destruction, Mr. Potter. He is determined to possess it because he believes it will make him truly invulnerable," said the soft voice of Ollivander.

Several witches and wizards blinked at the mention of the Hallow.

"So it really is real then?" Fred turned to his father. But the Head of Weasleys did not have an answer and merely tipped his head to the side with a clenched jaw as if it would help him understand their words.

"You-know-who is looking for it too?"

"The unbeatable wand," someone else echoed, sounding dazed.

"You — you really think this wand exists, then, Mr. Ollivander?" asked Hermione.

"Oh yes," said Ollivander. "Yes, it is perfectly possible to trace the wand's course through history. Although, whether it needs to pass by murder, I do not know. Its history is bloody, but that may be simply due to the fact that it is such a desirable object, and arouses such passions in wizards."

"As all powerful things do," Dumbledore confirmed sagely with a low voice.

Harry frowned as the conversation continued on, and even further when his own voice said, "Grindelwald had the Elder Wand and used it to become powerful in the last big war. At the height of his power, when Dumbledore knew he was the only one who could stop him, he dueled Grindelwald and beat him, and he took the Elder Wand."

Harry froze.

Heads turned to the Headmaster. Jaws dropped. Eyes widened in disbelief.

"Dumbledore had the Elder Wand?" said Ron. "But then — where is it now?"

No one dared a word out at their leader.

Dumbledore carried on as he had before within the memories. He did not react outwardly at all.

But his eyes burned, near a physical thing like heat over a fire. And Harry had never known his Dumbledore to carry such anger as his counterpart now encompassed.

"At Hogwarts," said Harry.

"But then, let's go!" said Ron urgently. "Harry, let's go and get the wand before he does !"

Harry did not want to be on the end of that glare and barely stopped himself from flinching when Dumbledore's half-moon gaze slid to him in the next breath. His Order continued to stare.

"It's too late for that," said Harry. "He knows where it is. He'sthere with Dumbledore now."

Harry's hands clenched. Dumbledore looked angry enough to spit fire, and Harry was suddenly very sure that the wizard would do something against him. He'd ousted the wizard's most powerful weapon. In front of his Order.

He braced himself. Either for something verbal or magical, he didn't know but felt coming.

Apparently, James did too. He stepped in front of Harry, blocking the younger wizard's vision of the Headmaster. A stone wall in front of an inferno.

Harry blinked in surprise.

James faced the leader of the Order and said nothing. Harry could not see his face. Dumbledore did not do more than seem to glare down, and James stood unmoving like a tree between them in opposition.

"You should have told us," Lily said quietly. To Dumbledore, in a solemn, heavy moment. Her words echoed amongst the gathered.

And then the mist turned.

Before it could go completely, Bill's voice from Harry's memory washed across them all.

"All I am saying," said Bill, "is to be very careful what you promise goblins, Harry. It would be less dangerous to break into Gringotts than to renege on a promise to a goblin."

The gust of conversation passed like the blow of the wind. Then, dark, richly garnished items materialized around them into towering piles of treasure. Harry recognized it immediately for what it was and his gaze reached Ron's just as the redheads looked back at him.

Clearly, they were both thinking of the same thing at the same time. They knew what awaited them in this memory: The goblin's betrayal. The cup. The fucking dragon.

The memory of which would gain Natara's loyalty.

"...break into Gringotts?" McGonagall repeated Bill's last words like she hadn't heard right.

Piles of incalculable treasure materialized around them.

Sirius's eyebrows furrowed as he spun on his heel taking in the vault. "Is this…no..."

"Stand still, don't move!" said Hermione, clutching at Ron, trying not to touch any of the treasure around them.

She was wearing overly large robes, like they were made for another person, and was soaking wet as if she'd just been dumped into a lake. Or through a waterfall.

Sirius seemed to have caught up with his thoughts because he turned back to Harry with wide eyes. "...it can't be, LeStrange's Vault?"

Lily's head snapped to his face. James froze.

Harry nodded in confirmation.

Then the whole of the Order lost their collective minds.

"You broke into GRINGOTTS?" Marlene whipped around to Harry.

"-goblins treaty-"

"-neutral third party no longer-!"

"Another War on our hands if we did tha-"

-children!" They said all together and at once.

Mad-Eye had moved somewhat closer to Harry and his family as the memories had progressed, so Harry could hear him when he took in the situation and said, "Polyjuice, eh?" His magical eye turned to Harry. "Used Bellatrix wand from the Manor for entry, went in disguised, and that worked ?"

Harry fought back a wince. It sounded more impressive when said that way. "And a few Imperius Curses too," he admitted.

The wizard nodded, unperturbed, though Harry saw him shake his head to himself. "And it worked," he grumbled under his breath.

"Well, partly," grumbled Ron. "Then someone raised an alarm and we got stuck in the vault. And the bloody gold in it was cursed!"

"Language," Mrs. Weasley admonished softly, looking around the vault. Though they no longer were hugging each other, Mrs. Weasley stood close to Ron with a single hand clutched at the front of his outer robe like an anchor.

"Christ on a cracker," an American wizard mumbled incredulously.

"Just look around!" said Harry. "Remember, the cup's small and gold, it's got a badger engraved on it, two handles— otherwise see if you can spot Ravenclaw's symbol anywhere, the eagle—"

The Order seemed to lean forwards at the description of the horcrux.

"It's there, it's up there!"

As one, the Order swung their heads around to the cup Harry had located, high on a shelf, far out of reach.

Like sharks, they took in Hufflepuff's goblet with hungry eyes. Harry watched as they memorized the sight of the object and committed it amongst themselves. Another horcrux found to destroy. Another piece closer to his death.

He could understand the importance.

Together, Harry, Ron, and the Order watched as the trio and two goblins in the memory were trapped in the vault, and then how they uncomfortably found out that every bit of gold in the place was cursed. Burns soon covered those living the memory.

"If I can just poke the sword through a handle — but how am I going to get up there?" Harry shouted.

Though they could not actually feel the heat from the enchanted treasure, they could see the sweat running down Harry's face and the red blisters that plastered every patch of open skin.

"Honestly, I'm surprised it's not worse," Harry heard Bill comment to his father.

"Well, no one expects Gringotts to be robbed, do they?" George replied.

"Mental," Fred agreed.

"And we thought third year was off," George agreed, shaking his head.

Then they heard the dragon roar outside the vault.

The twins' jaws unhinged. Several Order members grimaced.

"And that'll be the guarding dragon in the Ancient Houses level," James announced unhelpfully.

"No Merlin, mate," Sirius answered dryly.

"Fucking hell," Alice Longbottom swallowed.

They were truly trapped now: There was no way out except through the door, and a horde of goblins seemed to be approaching on the other side. The door opened, and a Hoard approached with sharpened knives and gnashing teeth.

"I've a terrible feeling about this," Lily said, shaking her head and squeezing his hand.

The four struggled and yelled as Harry thrust the sword through the handle of Hufflepuff's cup, hooking it onto the blade. Hardly aware of the pain from the burns covering his body, and still borne along on the swell of replicating treasure, Harry shoved the cup into his pocket and reached up to retrieve the sword, but Griphook was gone.

"He's going for the sword," Bill stated evenly, though his eyes narrowed.

"Gobline made-" one of the Prewett twins started.

"-Goblin returned." the other finished.

Harry swallowed his bitterness and said nothing.

Sliding from Harry's shoulders the moment he could, Griphook had sprinted for cover amongst the surrounding goblins, brandishing the sword and crying, "Thieves! Thieves! Help! Thieves!" He vanished into the midst of the advancing crowd, all of whom were holding daggers and who accepted him without question.

"Fucking-" Ron spit out, before Mrs. Weasley lightly smacked the lower part of his shoulder. The taller ginger tried not to roll his eyes.

Harry tried to look between the scene playing out and the pair of them.

Slipping on the hot metal, Harry struggled to his feet and knew that the only way out was through. "Stupefy!" he bellowed, and Ron and Hermione joined in: Jets of red light flew into the crowd of goblins, and some toppled over, but others advanced, and Harry saw several wizard guards running around the corner. The tethered dragon let out a roar, and a gush of flame flew over the goblins: The wizards fled, doubled-up, back the way they had come, and inspiration, or madness, made Harry point his wand at the thick cuffs chaining the beast to the floor.

Emotion slipped off James's face. "No," he said.

The Order held its breath.

Harry swung slashed his wand forward and yelled, "Relashio!"

Harry thought either Sirius or Remus choked. Perhaps both, in the same moment. Marlene's jaw dropped, and others in the Order followed in disbelief.

The cuffs broke open with loud bangs. "This way!" Harry yelled, and still shooting Stunning Spells at the advancing goblins, he sprinted toward the blind dragon.

"Harry — Harry — what are you doing?" cried Hermione.

"We were mental," Ron huffed.

Yeah, but it worked hadn't it?

" Get up, climb up, come on —"

The dragon had not realized that it was free: Harry's foot found the crook of its hind leg and he pulled himself up onto its back. He stretched out an arm; Hermione hoisted herself up; Ron climbed on behind them, and a second later the dragon became aware that it was untethered. With a roar, it reared: Harry dug in his knees, clutching as tightly as he could to the jagged scales as the wings opened, knocking the shrieking goblins aside like skittles, and it soared into the air.

"You- you-" Mrs. Weasley stuttered breathlessly.

Even professor McGonagall's jaw had dropped open in an unseemly way, Harry noticed, in awe, horror, and fear.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione, flat on its back, scraped against the ceiling as it dived toward the passage opening-

- it was strange to be standing around in mid-air as the dragon pumped its wings in powerful strokes forward-

-while the pursuing goblins hurled daggers that glanced off its flanks.

"We'll never get out, it's too big!" Hermione screamed, but the dragon opened its mouth and belched flame again, blasting the tunnel, whose floors and ceiling cracked and crumbled. By sheer force, the dragon clawed and fought its way through.

"Oh my Gods," Lily breathed.

"The Goblins are going to hate you for the rest of your lives," Bill gaped.

Harry's eyes were shut tight against the heat and dust: Deafened by the crashing of rock and the dragon's roars, he could only cling to its back, expecting to be shaken off at any moment; then he heard Hermione yelling, "Defodio!" She was helping the dragon enlarge the passageway, carving out the ceiling as it struggled upward toward the fresher air, away from the shrieking and clanking goblins: Harry and Ron copied her, blasting the ceiling apart with more gouging spells.

"Smart one, that Granger," Mad-Eye praised quietly.

"Mental," Fred argued, pale.

"Every one of them," George nodded.

They passed the underground lake, and the great crawling, snarling beast seemed to sense freedom and space ahead of it, and behind them, the passage was full of the dragon's thrashing, spiked tail, great lumps of rock, gigantic fractured stalactites, and the clanking of the goblins seemed to be growing more muffled, while ahead, the dragon's fire kept their progress clear — And then at last, by the combined force of their spells and the dragon's brute strength, they had blasted their way out of the passage into the marble hallway.

Though they felt none of the falling debris or terror of the inhabitants in the memory, those watching stumbled, or fell to their knees.

Goblins and wizards shrieked and ran for cover, and finally, the dragon had room to stretch its wings: Turning its horned head toward the cool outside air it could smell beyond the entrance, it took off, and with Harry, Ron, and Hermione still clinging to its back, it forced its way up again, knocking chandeliers to the floor, crashing ornate glass pieces, and crumbling marble columns, as it launched itself up through the building, and into the sky.

Yeah. I made life debts more spicy.

Some FMA vibes for a sec there, right?

Should also note, the scar Bellatrix leaves Hermione was not actually written in the book, it was a movie adaptation that I've included becaus A.

Scars add character to terrible moments. *fight me*

Also, THANKS FOR WAITING FOR ME! I hope this made your expectations :) See you soon!