SIYE Time:0:20 on 14th August 2022

Crucio VS Sectumsempra
By millie

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Category: Post-OotP
Characters:Albus Dumbledore, Draco Malfoy, Harry/Ginny, Hermione Granger, Minerva McGonagall, Ron Weasley, Severus Snape
Genres: Action/Adventure, Romance
Warnings: Death, Mild Sexual Situations
Story is Complete
Rating: G
Reviews: 2
Summary: What if Harry had been a split second late in casting the Sectumsempra Curse at Malfoy? AU HBP Harry/Ginny
Hitcount: Story Total: 959
Awards: View Trophy Room

Disclaimer: Harry Potter Publishing Rights ? J.K.R. Note the opinions in this story are my own and in no way represent the owners of this site. This story subject to copyright law under transformative use. No compensation is made for this work.


Crucio vs Sectumsempra

Malfoy wheeled around, drawing his wand. Instinctively, Harry pulled out his own. Malfoy’s hex missed Harry by inches, shattering the lamp on the wall beside him; Harry threw himself sideways, thought Levicorpus! and flicked his wand, but Malfoy blocked the jinx and raised his wand for another ”

“No! No! Stop it!” squealed Moaning Myrtle, her voice echoing loudly around the tiled room. “Stop! STOP!”

There was a loud bang and the bin behind Harry exploded; Harry attempted a Leg-Locker Curse that backfired off the wall behind Malfoy’s ear and smashed the cistern beneath Moaning Myrtle, who screamed loudly; water poured everywhere and Harry slipped as Malfoy, his face contorted, cried, “Crucio!”

Lying on the floor, Harry waved his wand to block it but he knew it was useless; no magical shield could block the Unforgivable Curse. The red light slammed into Harry and it hurt. Harry didn’t think that Malfoy had it in him. It didn’t hurt the way Voldemort’s curse had; the feeling of a hundred knives stabbing him at once and the agonising burning that made it seem as if a fire was coursing through his body was absent. However, Harry still twitched and shuddered, and he barely managed to stop himself from making a sound. It seems Malfoy had been practicing.

An ear-splitting alarm blared suddenly, causing Malfoy to stop the curse and back away. He looked horrified at what he’d done as he stared at Harry. Gasping, Harry sat up and stared back. There was silence for two seconds before Malfoy turned and ran. He’d almost made it out the door, but Harry raised his wand and sent a Stunning Spell at the last second, which was one of the few spells he could do non-verbally. The spell hit the Slytherin in the back, who froze and tumbled to the wet floor, facedown.

Myrtle shrieked and disappeared into her toilet with a splash of water. Harry ignored her and stood up. He approached Malfoy, keeping his wand firmly in his hand. The alarm was still resounding, causing Harry to wonder what it was. He’d never heard it before. It sounded a bit like the fire alarms in his Muggle school when they used to have practice drills. The door slammed open, and Harry reflexively sent a Stunning Spell that way. He was still high on adrenaline, and his previous experiences made it that he perceived everything in this state as a threat.

Snape blocked his spell immediately. Behind him was Professor McGonagall, and following her was Dumbledore, looking more serious than Harry had ever seen him except for two occasions (when Fudge had refused to believe him about Voldemort and the duel in the Ministry). Dumbledore’s blue eyes bored into his green ones, and although he was not the one who had cast a spell first, Harry still felt like a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

Professor McGonagall gasped, and Harry followed her gaze. She was looking at Malfoy, who was still unconscious, lying on the wet floor of the bathroom.

Snape looked livid. His eyes were blazing, and his voice was a cold fury. “What do you think you’re doing, Potter?! Casting an Unforgivable-"

“Hey, it wasn’t me; it was Malfoy!” Harry protested. At least, this explained what the alarm was for. There was probably a ward or enchantment to detect Unforgivables being cast in the castle or on the school grounds. “At least there is a ward for something,” thought Harry in a darkly amusing way. Judging by the three professors’ expressions, Harry could also tell that the wards/enchantment also identified the Unforgivable Curse used.

“Then why is he unconscious and not you?” Snape spat back. "Don’t blame your actions on someone else, Pott-"

Anger soared through Harry despite his fruitless attempts to control it. “I sent a Stunning Spell at him, that’s why!” He snapped.

Snape stared at him for a second and then scoffed. “Just as arrogant as your father. You expect me to believe that you overcame the Cruciatus Curse?”

“Given that I overcame Voldemort’s Imperio and Crucio, this was no big deal.” Harry retorted waspishly.

“Enough!” The power and authority in Dumbledore’s voice made Harry lower his head, abashed, and even Snape calmed down. Dumbledore spoke in a gentler tone. “Mr Potter, what happened here?”

“Well, you know of my suspicions about Malfoy, sir,” said Harry, keeping his eyes on Dumbledore. He feared he would lose his nerve if he looked at someone else. “I found it odd that he was here alone with only Moaning Myrtle for company-”

“How did you know that, Mr Potter?” cut in Professor McGonagall sharply. “I’m assuming that you didn’t follow Mr Malfoy all the way till this washroom.”

Harry blushed at the accusation. He may not have been following Malfoy around this time, but he had followed him before. He shoved this thought in the back of his mind and glanced uneasily at Snape. Harry didn’t really want to reveal the Marauders Map to the Potions Professor, especially after what happened three years ago, but it seemed he had no choice.

Harry pulled the Map out of his pocket and showed it to the teachers. He quickly explained its purpose and tried his best not to look at Snape, who was steadily getting redder.

“I suppose that Lupin knew what it was when I confiscated this from you?” asked Snape in an icy tone.

Harry averted his eyes. “Um...Professor Lupin is actually one of the people who made this Map. Along with my father, Sirius and Wormtail.” Harry could feel Snape’s anger even though he was across the room.

No one said anything. Professor McGonagall and Snape seemed to be working very hard at controlling their temper, and Harry knew that if it wasn’t for Dumbledore standing there, he would have been verbally flayed alive by now. By both of them. Forget verbal, Snape looked like he might kill him with looks alone. Everyone seemed to expect him to go on, so he ignored the tension in the room and spoke:

“Well, I found him here talking to Myrtle about not being able to do something. He said no one can help him and if he doesn’t do it then he will kill him. I don’t know who he is but I’m assuming it was Voldemort.” He ignored Professor McGonagall’s flinch. Harry decided not to mention that Malfoy had been crying as well. “As soon as he saw me, he sent a hex at me; I don’t know what it was, it looked like a Cutting Curse.”

“I see,” said Dumbledore, his expression revealing nothing. “Go on, Harry.”

“We fought for a few minutes until Malfoy cast the Cruciatus Curse at me. I had slipped right before that and was unable to dodge and we all know that no magical shield can block an Unforgivable.” He nodded towards Malfoy. “He tried to leave when he realized what he’d done but I Stunned him before he could.”

Snape cast ‘Rennervate’ at Malfoy. Malfoy stirred and sat up slowly; he didn’t seem to know that the room was not as empty as it had been when he was Stunned. His silence lasted right until he spotted the three Professors in front of him. Malfoy yelped and quickly pulled out his wand, scrambled into a standing position, and backed away, almost bumping into Harry, who stepped to the side at the last moment but kept his wand on Malfoy anyways.

“Put away your wands, both of you,” ordered Professor McGonagall. Harry reluctantly put his wand in his pocket and saw Malfoy do the same.

Dumbledore spoke up. His eyes were hard, and there was no twinkle in them. “Mr Malfoy, please explain what went on here.”

Malfoy looked like a deer caught in headlights. In other words, he looked cornered. Harry almost felt sorry for him, but then he remembered the Cruciatus Curse, and all feelings of sympathy vanished.

“Get Potter out of here, and I’ll explain.” Harry tried to protest, but one look from Dumbledore shut that down immediately.

“Harry, please wait for me in my office. The password is Chocolate Frogs.” Knowing it was futile to argue, Harry took his leave with one last look at Malfoy, who still had tear tracks on his face.

Harry ran into Ginny on his way to Dumbledore’s office. It seemed as if dinner was already over; Harry couldn’t imagine so much time had already gone by.

“Hey, Harry,” she greeted him cheerfully. “Where are you coming from? Ron came to ask me where you were and I told him you had gone to dinner already with Hermione. Why are you wet?”

“Hermione’s actually with Professor Vector,” replied Harry. As usual, his heart, which was finally slowing down, skipped a beat seeing her. “I’ll explain what happened later; I have to go to Dumbledore’s office.”

Ginny understood immediately. She didn’t know what went on in his meetings with Dumbledore, but she knew that they were instrumental in defeating Voldemort. Something important must have happened if Dumbledore called him to his office at dinner. Harry didn’t have the energy to tell her how utterly wrong she was.

“All right, I’ll see you later, Harry.”

Harry waved goodbye and continued on his way, reaching the gargoyle in no time at all. “Chocolate Frogs,” he said to the gargoyle who moved aside. Harry, lost in his thoughts, didn’t realize that he was already standing inside Dumbledore’s office until he heard Fawkes chirp gently at him. Harry glanced at the phoenix and approached him.

“Hello, Fawkes,” he said softly. Harry stroked his red feathers before moving away and settling in a chair near Dumbledore’s desk. The door opened more than half an hour later, and Professor Dumbledore stepped in. Harry, who had dozed off, scrambled into an appropriate sitting position.

“Professor Dumbledore,” he said, standing up.

Dumbledore smiled at him but didn’t say anything until he had settled behind his desk. “It seems Voldemort has threatened Mr Malfoy’s family if he fails to complete the task given.”

"Finally!" thought Harry and then realized what Dumbledore had just done; The Headmaster had given him an actually straightforward, no beating-around-the-bush answer. Harry frowned suspiciously. It was incredibly unlike the Headmaster to give such straight answers, especially when they were about someone else. More specifically, about someone Harry had already shared his suspicions of.

Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled, seeing the look on Harry’s face. “I believe you deserve the truth, Harry, after everything you have done to bring Mr Malfoy’s activities to my attention.”

Harry nodded, relaxing back into the chair he had come to think of as his own. “I was right? Malfoy has taken his father’s place as a Death Eater?”

Dumbledore nodded. “Yes, from the little that Mr Malfoy has revealed, I gathered that his mother, Narcissa Malfoy’s life was threatened by Voldemort if he refused as well as his own. Lucius Malfoy, of course, is still in Azkaban paying the punishment for his crimes.”

“What was he doing in the Room of Requirement?” asked Harry. “I think it was Crabbe and Goyle who took Polyjuice and were stationed outside it as guards.”

“Yes, Mr Malfoy has already told us that,” confirmed Dumbledore. “Mr Malfoy has been tasked with bringing Death Eaters into the castle which he tried to achieve by repairing the Vanishing Cabinet that was stored in the Room of Requirement.”

Harry stiffened, his thoughts racing. He remembered that Fred and George pushed Graham Montague into a cabinet, and he had reappeared a week later and took a long time to recover. “But how would that help....” Harry trailed off. He remembered the conversation of Malfoy at Borgin and Burkes all too well.

“. . . you know how to fix it?”

“Possibly,” said Borgin, in a tone that suggested he was unwilling to commit himself. “I’ll need to see it, though. Why don’t you bring it into the shop?”

“I can’t,” said Malfoy. “It’s got to stay put. I just need you to tell me how to do it.”

Harry saw Borgin lick his lips nervously. “Well, without seeing it, I must say it will be a very difficult job, perhaps impossible. I couldn’t guarantee anything.”

“No?” said Malfoy, and Harry knew, just by his tone, that Malfoy was sneering. “Perhaps this will make you more confident.” He moved toward Borgin and was blocked from view by the cabinet. Harry, Ron, and Hermione shuffled sideways to try and keep him in sight, but all they could see was Borgin, looking very frightened.

“Tell anyone,” said Malfoy, “and there will be retribution. You know Fenrir Greyback? He’s a family friend. He’ll be dropping in from time to time to make sure you’re giving the problem your full attention.”

“There will be no need for ””

“I’ll decide that,” said Malfoy. “Well, I’d better be off. And don’t forget to keep that one safe, I’ll need it.”

“Perhaps you’d like to take it now?”

“No, of course I wouldn’t, you stupid little man, how would I look carrying that down the street? Just don’t sell it.”

“Of course not . . . sir.”

“There is another cabinet at Borgin and Burkes in Knockturn Alley!” exclaimed Harry. “The cabinet in the Room of Requirement connects with that one to create a passageway, I assume?”

Dumbledore nodded, a faint smile on his lips. “You assume correct, Harry. If Mr Malfoy could fix the cabinet, his mission will be at least partially successful.”

Harry leaned forward. “That doesn’t make sense, Professor. Why would Malfoy want to bring Death Eaters into the castle unless...” Images of mead and a twitching Ron flashed through his mind as Harry shoved a bezoar down his throat. The cursed necklace that Katie had touched zoomed to the front of his thoughts. He thought back to what Katie had said: She’d been Imperiused to give the parcel to Dumbledore and the mead...Slughorn had meant to give it to Dumbledore as a Christmas present. “Malfoy is ordered to kill you,” finished Harry, his voice oddly calm.

Dumbledore smiled at him, but Harry continued before he could say anything.

“And you knew that right, Professor? That’s why you dismissed my concerns when I brought them to you.”

“Yes, I knew that Mr Malfoy had been tasked with killing me. I believe that Voldemort hoped Mr Malfoy would die in the process either by my own or by Voldemort’s hands which would be the ultimate punishment for his father. "

Harry had never really stopped to think about why Malfoy would have become a Death Eater; he’d always been obsessed with being correct in his hunch. “I’ve been just like the pureblood bigots, haven’t I?” thought Harry wryly. “Thinking the worst of Malfoy only because he came from a Death Eater family. I never realised he might not want to become one of Voldemort’s minions. But then again, Malfoy has never given me a reason to believe otherwise.”

“What’s going to happen now?” he asked finally, pushing those thoughts to the back of his mind.

“Mr Malfoy has led me to believe that he has a secret method of communication with his mother which he will employ to get his mother to safety. Professor McGonagall is contacting the Order to set up a safe house out of the country for them; I believe Remus is in charge of that. This Saturday, they will be transported to safety while everyone is at the Quidditch match. As for Lucius Malfoy, he is safer in Azkaban than outside it.”

Harry nodded and barely caught himself from yawning; the day’s events were catching up to him, and he was exhausted. However, he had one more thing left to do.

After Harry had been dismissed from the Headmaster’s office, he quickly made his way back to the common room. Ron and Hermione were occupying armchairs in front of the fireplace with books spread out in front of them. He hurried over to them. Hermione spotted him first, and her expression creased with worry when she saw him.

“Harry! Where were you? Ginny said that Professor Dumbledore called you to his office; is everything alright? No one-"

“Hermione,” Harry interrupted her babbling, smiling slightly. “I need to talk to you both. Can you guys come up to the dorm?” Dean and Seamus were sitting in front of another fireplace and entertaining a group of second-years, and he’d passed Neville on his way to the common room, so he knew the dorm was empty. Both of them looked at him with worried expressions but did what he asked.

As he trailed behind his best friends, he spotted Ginny sitting alone in a corner with a book. She glanced up and smiled at him, and after a split second of hesitation, he motioned her to come over. He couldn’t tell her about the Horcruxes, but he could tell her about this.

Once all four of them had settled on top of Harry’s bed, Harry raised his wand casting privacy spells around them just in case. Dumbledore told him not to let this get out to protect Malfoy, and while he trusted Ron, Hermione, and Ginny, anyone could come to the dorm at any moment.

“What is it, Harry?” implored Hermione. “You’re worrying me, is everything alright?”

“Everything’s fine,” said Harry reassuringly, but then he grimaced. “Well, kind of. Malfoy cast the Cruciatus Curse on me.”

“WHAT?!” All three of them spoke at the same time.

Harry quickly explained everything that had happened.

“But that’s - that’s-” Hermione struggled for words. Apparently, being proven horribly wrong for once in her life was enough to render her speechless. “Malfoy’s just sixteen!” She cried out finally.

Harry smiled wryly. “Riddle was sixteen when he killed Myrtle, Hermione. I told you this before and I’m telling you again. Voldemort doesn’t care about the age of a person. He only cares about what benefits they can bring for him and what they can do for him.”

“You’re alright though, right?” asked Ron. “He cast the Cruciatus Curse on you, that was not a walk in the park, I’d imagine.” Even Ron, who had never been under the Cruciatus Curse, had an idea about how much it could hurt.

Harry shrugged. “It hurt but not as much as Voldemort’s Crucio did. As a matter of fact, a Bludger hurts more than Malfoy’s Crucio though I suppose you could say Crucio is worse since it targets all the nerves in your body. . . .”

“And because it’s Dark Magic!” said Hermione hotly. “Bludgers are not Dark Magic!”

Silence descended upon the group. No one quite knew what to say. Malfoy may have been a bully and made their lives at Hogwarts hell, but he was still the same age as them. It was disheartening to know that someone so close to their own age was forced to cast the Unforgivables Curses and find ways to kill someone just to protect his own family.

Harry looked at Ginny; she hadn’t said anything yet, and he was kind of nervous. “Ginny?”

Ginny looked up, her eyes unfocused and glazed as if he’d disturbed some particularly intense thoughts. “Hmm?”

“Aren’t you going to say anything?” He asked tentatively.

“I was thinking of ways to torture Malfoy. I don’t care if he was threatened by Voldemort or if his mother was in danger. He used the Cruciatus Curse on you!” she said. “I don’t know about you all but I’m not going to let him get away with this. Besides, don’t we all know that casting an Unforgivable requires having to mean it? That means Malfoy wanted to hurt Harry, he wasn’t just scared or angry.”

“But I was angry when I Crucio’d Bellatrix,” said Harry, his brow furrowed. “I remember thinking afterwards that I won’t ever be able to cast it on someone, except maybe Voldemort, because I need to mean it and I can’t just justify hurting someone like that.”

“Exactly,” said Ginny, as if he’d proved her point. “When you cast Crucio on Bellatrix, you were angry and didn’t really mean it which is why it didn’t truly hurt Bellatrix. But you said Malfoy’s Crucio hurt, right?”

“It did,” admitted Harry. “It hurt more than I thought it would, honestly.”

“Ginny’s right,” said Ron, looking at Harry. “Malfoy’s not going to get away with this. We’ll deliver revenge on him,” He promised. “Fred and George Weasley style. I’m sure they would love to help once they hear what happened.”

“And how do you think you’re going to do that when he’s going to leave in a few days?” asked Harry, amused.

“Few days is enough for revenge, Harry,” said Hermione firmly, surprising everyone. “What? I may be against all this usually, but Harry’s the little brother I never had, and Malfoy forgot that messing with one of us means messing with all of us.”

“Wait,” blurted Ron. “You think of Harry as your brother?!” Harry snorted and quickly covered it up with a cough. He glanced at Ginny to see her smirking at him; he grinned back.

“Honestly, Ronald,” said Hermione, rolling her eyes. “Which world do you live in? Harry’s been my brother since my first year. What did you think I thought of him as?” She looked exasperated, but Harry had known her long enough to spot the nervousness on her face.

"But you said you love him. . . ?"

“Of course I do! Just not romantically. I love him like you love Ginny and I know Harry feels the same. Right, Harry?” She added, looking at him.

“Definitely,” He replied, grinning but then added more sincerely, “You’re like the older sister I never had.”

“I thought you liked Harry!” said Ron, still stuck on that part.

Harry and Ginny looked at each other and simultaneously decided to sneak away. They were gone by the time Hermione replied to Ron.

“You wanted to see me, Headmaster?” asked Severus stiffly.

Albus sighed, leaning forward in his chair. “Yes, please sit down, Severus.”

Severus sat down in one of the comfy chairs in front of the Headmaster’s desk and fixed him with a glare. “What is it, Albus? I was working on a complicated potion which is in a critical state at this moment.”

Albus smiled. “Then I’ll make this quick for you. I wanted to talk with you about Harry.”

Severus rolled his eyes. “What has the brat done now? Isn’t getting my godson kicked out of this school enough? What else does he want to do?”

“Harry hasn’t done anything. It’s your attitude towards him that I want to talk to you about.”

“What have I done now?” Severus still looked livid, but he looked a little uncomfortable now.

“You and I both know that Harry would have never cast the Cruciatus Curse on Mr Malfoy especially since he knows how that feels. And you knew that he suffered Voldemort’s Crucio. Yet you still made it seem as if his suffering didn’t matter and that he wasn’t the sort of person who would cast an Unforgivable Curse on someone else, especially a child.”

“What are you trying to say, Headmaster?” demanded Severus. “Do you mean that Draco is the sort of person who would cast an Unforgivable on someone else, especially a child?”

“That is not what I mean, Severus,” said Albus carefully. “I don’t believe Mr Malfoy is capable of that kind of evil. However, it is also true that Mr Malfoy had a very different upbringing to that of Harry. It is also no secret that he resents Harry for many reasons one of which is that his father went to Azkaban because of him and their family lost the respect they had in society. Negative emotions like that can affect a person badly.”

“What about the Vanishing Cabinet?” asked Snape, changing the subject just as Dumbledore knew he would.

“The Vanishing Cabinet was exactly where Mr Malfoy said it would be. It has been destroyed; the Death Eaters won’t be able to enter the castle from there anymore.”

“One last thing, Severus,” Albus added when Severus stood up.

“Yes, Headmaster?” He looked like he had to force the words out of himself.

“Just because Mr Malfoy is no longer in danger and no longer under any obligation to kill me does not mean you will not do what is required of you. This curse will end up killing me soon and Voldemort undoubtedly had more spies in this castle.”

“I know, Headmaster. I wasn’t foolish enough to believe otherwise.” Without looking back, Severus left the room.

Harry turned to face his teammates. This was it. If they won, Gryffindor won the Quidditch Cup. Harry didn’t waste time stressing how important this was but instead nodded at his team and shouldered his broom. “We can do this. Gryffindor will win the Cup."

Ginny held her hand out, palm facing down. Katie put hers on top of it, followed, one by one, by the rest of the team members. Harry took a deep breath and placed his on top of the pile.

“GO GRYFFINDOR!” shouted Ginny, and the team followed her chant. Harry removed his hand and motioned the team to gather their equipment. Harry shouldered his broom and walked out to tumultuous cheers, applause, and many boos from the Slytherin side.

Harry’s fingers closed around the Snitch just as Ginny scored another goal. To a hundred and forty. “YES!” Harry yelled. Wheeling around, he hurtled back toward the ground, the Snitch held high in his hand. As the crowd realized what had happened, a great shout went up that almost drowned the whistle that signalled the end of the game. Harry turned around in mid-air and saw six scarlet blurs bearing down on him; the next moment, the whole team was hugging him so hard he was nearly pulled off his broom. Down below, he could hear the roars of the Gryffindors in the crowd.

A gaggle of Gryffindor supporters burst onto the pitch, Hermione among them. The next moment, the team was engulfed by the entirety of Gryffindor House. Ron was cheering loudly; Katie and Demelza hugged each other, happy tears streaming down their faces; Coote and Peakes slapped each other on the back. Then, finally, he saw her.

Ginny was running towards him, a hard, blazing look on her face as she threw her arms around him. And without thinking, without planning, without worrying about the fact that the whole school was watching - Harry kissed her.

After several long moments ” or it might have been half an hour ” or possibly several sunlit days ” they broke apart. The whole stadium was silent; Harry could have sworn crickets were chirping somewhere. Then, people in the crowd wolf-whistled, and applause and giggling filled the stadium. Harry looked down at Ginny; her face was red, but she was grinning, and her eyes were sparkling as she looked up at him. Harry was glad; it would have been horribly embarrassing if she did not want to kiss him; she probably would have hexed him.

Harry sent her a silent promise with his eyes that they would talk later, and she nodded in reply and slipped out of his arms. As he watched her go, he saw Dean Thomas holding a ripped Gryffindor scarf and Romilda Vane looking as if she would throw something. Hermione was beaming, but Harry’s eyes sought Ron, who was looking as if someone clubbed him over the head. The two friends stared at each other for a few seconds, and then finally, Ron jerked his head in assent.

Harry hurried over to the door leading to the spiral staircase, but his hand had only just closed upon the iron ring of the door when he heard running footsteps on the other side. He looked around at Dumbledore, who gestured him to retreat. Harry backed away, drawing his wand as he did so. The door burst open, and somebody erupted through it and shouted, “Expelliarmus!”

Harry’s body became instantly rigid and immobile, and he felt himself fall back against the tower wall, propped like an unsteady statue, unable to move or speak. He could not understand how it had happened ” Expelliarmus was not a Freezing Charm ” Then, by the light of the Mark, he saw Dumbledore’s wand flying in an arc over the edge of the ramparts and understood. . . .

Dumbledore had wordlessly immobilized Harry, and the second he had taken to perform the spell had cost him the chance of defending himself. Standing against the ramparts, very white in the face, Dumbledore still showed no sign of panic or distress. He merely looked across at his disarmer and said, “Good evening, Theodore.”

Harry glanced at the boy and vaguely recognized him as one of the Slytherins in his year: Theodore Nott. He remembered, last year, he had named his father as one of the Death Eaters who had been present at the graveyard.

Nott stepped forward, glancing around quickly to check that he and Dumbledore were alone. His eyes fell upon the second broom.

“Who else is here?”

“A question I might ask you. Or are you acting alone?”

Harry saw Nott’s brown eyes shift back to Dumbledore in the greenish glare of the Mark. He seemed to have realized Dumbledore’s deflection but didn’t comment on it. “No,” he said. “I’ve got backup. There are Death Eaters here in your school tonight.”

“Well, well,” said Dumbledore, as though Nott was showing him an ambitious homework project. “Very good indeed. You found a way to let them in, did you?”

“Yeah,” said Nott, who was smirking. “Right under your nose and you never realized!”

“Ingenious,” said Dumbledore. “Yet . . . forgive me . . . Where are they now? You seem unsupported.”

“They met some of your guards. They’re having a fight down below. They won’t be long; I came on ahead. I’ve got a job to do.”

“Well, then, dear boy, before you get on and do it, may I ask how you managed to bring your friends into this castle?” asked Dumbledore softly.

“Sure,” sneered Nott. “It’s not like you can tell anyone after this anyway. It was your lackey, your follower, Severus Snape,” He seemed to take great pleasure in explaining Snape’s betrayal. Dumbledore’s eyes widened, and he stepped back a little.


“He wasn’t as loyal to you as you thought he was,” said Nott savagely. “Professor Snape has always served the Dark Lord. All Professors’ have a personal Floo connected to the outside, right? I’m sure, as the Headmaster you are aware of that. He simply connected it to Malfoy Manor and my friends came through. I don’t know what Malfoy was thinking, going about this the hard way,” He smirked. “If only he’d been cleverer, he could have gotten the glory that I’m going to get by killing you. Instead, he ran away like a coward.”

There was silence. Harry stood imprisoned within his own invisible, paralyzed body, staring at the two of them, his ears straining to hear sounds of the Death Eaters’ distant fight, and in front of him, Theodore Nott raised his wand; green light glowed at the top, and his mouth opened.

The door banged open behind them. Harry looked around and saw the man they talked about, Snape, stride into the room.

Nott glanced back, his wand coming down a little. "Hello, Professor Snape. Dumbledore finally seems to have realized what he should have done ages ago. Honestly, for someone so revered as him, it’s a mystery he couldn’t tell you’re not loyal to him.”

Snape didn’t say anything. His wand was in his hand, and his black eyes trailed over Nott and Professor Dumbledore.

“Severus . . .”

The sound frightened Harry beyond anything he had experienced all evening. For the first time, Dumbledore was pleading. Snape said nothing but walked forward and pushed Nott roughly out of the way. Nott protested, but both wizards ignored him. Snape gazed for a moment at Dumbledore, and there was revulsion and hatred etched in the harsh lines of his face.

“Severus . . . please . . .”

Snape raised his wand and pointed it directly at Dumbledore.

“Avada Kedavra!”

A jet of green light shot from the end of Snape’s wand and hit Dumbledore squarely in the chest. Harry’s scream of horror never left him; silent and unmoving, he was forced to watch as Dumbledore was blasted into the air. For a split second, he seemed to hang suspended beneath the shining skull, and then he fell slowly backward, like a great rag doll, over the battlements and out of sight.

“What the hell, Professor?!” shouted Nott. “I was supposed to kill Dumbledore; I was given this task by the Dark Lord!”

Snape grabbed the boy roughly and dragged him towards the door. “Out of here, quickly. I’ll explain later.”

“We’re with you whatever happens,” said Ron. “But mate, you’re going to have to come round my mum and dad’s house before we do anything else, even Godric’s Hollow.”


“Bill and Fleur’s wedding, remember?”

Harry looked at him, startled; the idea that anything as normal as a wedding could still exist seemed incredible and yet wonderful.

“Yeah, we shouldn’t miss that,” he said finally.

His hand closed automatically around the fake Horcrux. Despite the dark and twisting path he saw stretching ahead for himself, despite the pain of breaking up with Ginny, despite the final meeting with Voldemort that he knew must come, whether in a month, in a year, or in ten, he felt his heart lift at the thought that there was still one last golden day of peace left to enjoy with Ron and Hermione.

The End

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