Life Debt

Blood and Tears

~Draco~

I arrived back at Hogwarts, regretting every step I took closer to the old Headmaster's office. I didn't have a choice. Under the Unbreakable Vow, I would die if I didn't tell Voldemort the location of the Order. I'd rather be alive and somehow try to make amends with Hermione, even if I failed, than die unable to protect her.

On the way to the office, I ran into Pansy.

"The Dark Lord ordered me to tell you he awaits your information at the manor. He's with your father." I nodded at her, ignoring whatever else it was she began to ramble about. Why she joined the Death Eaters is beyond me. Better yet, why Voldemort allowed her to join is a mystery. She brings no assets, and she only joined after Hogwarts was taken.

"All right. See ya." I cut off whatever it was she was saying, waving her away. I left the school on foot, since I wouldn't have a way to Apparate to the manor until I was outside the grounds. I would have done anything to be able to sidetrack myself, give Hermione time to prepare, if she suspected anything from my strange behavior. I thought about going to the Room of Requirement, telling Dumbledore and Snape, but that would count under alerting someone in the Order, and I would have died anyway, regardless of the fact that they couldn't speak to anyone at Grimmauld place.

I was screwed. Worse than that, I was as good as dead. What was the guarantee that Voldemort wouldn't kill me himself after I gave him the information?

Before I knew it, I was in Hogsmeade, so I Apparated to the Manor parlor, where Voldemort and my father awaited me. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of a portrait, my mother giving me a worried look, shaking her head as if to say "No. Don't do it." She knew what I had planned, and that was at least something of a comfort, since she'd probably alerted Hermione. At least I hoped she had.

"My Lord," I bowed, lowering my head yet still trying to see my mother. I caught a glimpse of her leaving the portrait. "I have the location of the Order's hideout. Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place."

"Ah, the ancestral Black home. Quite fitting." I didn't understand what he meant by fitting, but I simply bowed lower. Somewhere in my mind, I was hoping, praying to whatever deity that would listen, that this would somehow work out. All I wanted was for Hermione to be safe. Voldemort couldn't hurt her. Those were the terms of his vow. "Rise, Draco."

"Yes, my Lord." I did as he said, putting up mental blocks to cover my mother's discovery. I let him look me in the eye, no Crucio, necessary, so he could look into my mind. It didn't take long for him to confirm that what I'd said was true. He ripped through the memory of my last kiss with Hermione, making a sound of disgust with his throat. Clenching my jaw and fists, I stood my ground.

"Very well done, young Malfoy. When we attack, you will seem the traitor, as you well know." I could only nod. "To avoid you playing hero for your little Mudblood, you will be taken back to the dungeon.' With a wave of his arm he signaled for my father to bind me, then Apparate back to Hogwarts. He was silent the entire way there, but disgust for me rolled off him in waves. I knew the feeling well, having been at the receiving end of his disapproval for most of my life anyway.

I didn't say anything, as nothing needed to be said. I knew by the way he looked at me that he no longer considered me his child. It made me wonder if he ever did. Hell, he never even took the time to mourn my mother. Why should my downfall be any different? The death march to my cell in the dungeons seemed to take forever. Once we were there, he threw me back into the cage I'd been in before, clearly ignoring the fact that we were blood related. He didn't spare me a second glance.

I listened as his boots echoed off the stone floor. Waiting until I knew he was gone, I finally moved, sitting upright on the floor, back against the wall to my cell. Head in my hands, all I could do know was think.

Would Dobby come if I called him? My mother must have alerted the Order by now. Hermione probably told him I betrayed them. There was no way out of this mess, no way to protect Hermione.

~Hermione~

Dobby gathered the rest of the Order into the library, Narcissa overlooking everything. She had left soon after coming back, only to come back again and confirm that Draco had revealed the location of the Order's hideout. It was only a matter of time before we were attacked. I didn't know if the pain in my chest was apprehension or heartbreak. My inability to breathe properly because of him kept me from speaking. Narcissa did all the talking, after an explanation from Tonks.

"Draco has revealed the location of the Order to Voldemort. He will attack, soon. He's too desperate to wait. Before the day is out, you'll have Death Eaters tearing this house apart."

"We need to prepare a counterattack. We have to defend the house." Harry's voice was all it took to snap me out of my trance.

"No." Everyone turned to look at me. "We can't just sit put. We saw from the last fight there's no way to know how many will come. We need to get everyone to safety." Despite the looks they were giving me, they began to nod their heads, agreeing with my strategy.

"We're running away, again?"

"We have children here, Harry! Their safety is our priority, you know that. We need to take what little time we have before the attack to evacuate anyone not fighting." It would seem I'd overruled him, as Lupin agreed with me.

"She's right, Harry. We need to get everyone out." Harry looked at our old professor with disbelief.

"She's been wrong before." Lupin didn't get a chance to respond.

"Forgive me for being human Harry! I made a bad judgment. I'm sorry." I had to fight the tears, hold back the sob that threatened to escape my throat.

"Your bad judgment is going to cost people their lives." The eerie calm Harry spoke with enraged me more than anything.

"Because yours wouldn't, Harry? Need I remind you the ridiculous suicide mission that nearly got me killed? I'm fully aware of the danger. I won't let people get hurt over my mistakes, which is why we need to get them to safety!" Before Harry could retaliate, Lupin spoke again.

"ENOUGH!" A stunned silence overtook the room. No one had ever seen Lupin lose his temper before. He turned on Harry. "Regardless of her past judgments, she is right, Harry. The safety of the children and civilians is paramount. We can't waste any more time arguing."

"That still leaves the question," Ron spoke, surprising everyone. "Where exactly is 'safe?'" He had a point. Everyone fell silent again. No one expected Narcissa to speak.

"This house has tunnels and dungeons of its own. Uncle Orion, as you are all well aware, was severely paranoid. There's a tunnel at the end of the third hall on the bottom floor. At the end of it is a portal to a safe house. Kreacher!" The old house elf appeared, Dobby at his side, "You must take them all to the safe house." I imagined this is what it must have been like when she was in charge of the manor. The house elf bowed, turning to Harry to await further instruction. Everyone was too stunned to speak.

"How come no one else knows of this?" Lupin didn't sound as shocked as Harry would have. He was more curious than anything.

"When I was little, Bella and I wandered down there with Regulus and Sirius. We were chasing a small Puffskein that Regulus had received for his birthday. We wandered too far deep into the dungeons, that the adults all began to look for us. Uncle Orion found where we were. We had reached the portal to the safe house, and Bellatrix had gone through to follow the Puffskein. I went in after her. I managed to catch a glimpse of the place, completely empty, before I was taken away. When we were back in the dungeons, we were told never to tell. We were sworn to secrecy."

"So now that you're all dead, it's ok to tell." Again, Ron surprised us all by speaking.

"Exactly." It was settled, so we all began to line up the children first, having Kreacher lead them down into the dungeons. Ron and Luna went with them. It took about an hour to finally get the children out of the house. A few other house elves were sent with them, to take care of the children.

All I could do through this whole process was sit and wait. I could tell by the way people looked at me that I no one wanted my help. Tonks and Lupin were the only ones to show me some sympathy. Luna was indifferent, as usual, while Ginny's world revolved around Harry, who was currently ignoring me. I stayed in the library while the others prepared to fight. There wasn't much I could help with anyway. When the Death Eaters came, it would be a frenzy. We'd agreed that we were past simply stunning spells. If we didn't use Unforgivables when we had to, we would lose this war, guaranteed.

I sat on the very couch Draco had kissed me. How was I supposed to face him? The fact that he'd betrayed us didn't change my feelings for him. All it changed was that I knew his weren't real. If the moment came, would I be able to attack, or even defend myself? I still owed him my life. He saved me more times than I could repay…maybe that had been the plan all along.

I leaned back against the couch, closing my eyes. Was it terrible that I couldn't help but imagine the way he held me? I just wanted to go back to that moment in his room, when all that mattered was the one moment we could have together. Well, it mattered to me.

I was taken out of my daydream by a loud crash downstairs. Looking up at the portrait of Narcissa, I couldn't even muster the semblance of indifference. I let her see the tears forming, the pain her son had caused. She didn't hide the remorse or pain in her eyes either.

"You cared about him."

"I love him." I made a point of putting it in the present tense. If I couldn't tell Draco how I felt, I had to at least tell his mother. There was another loud explosion below. We were already under attack, yet I couldn't bring myself to face him.

"Hermione…" She clearly had more to say, but I didn't want to hear her defense of her son.

"I know he's your son, but you don't have to make excuses for him." I turned away from her, walking out to face her son. I couldn't help but let the tears finally fall.

~Draco~

I didn't know what to do. It'd been a little over two hours. The Order must have been under attack by now.

"Dobby." His name sounded more like a plea for help. I didn't have another choice. If he came, there was a slight probability that he'd take me to the Order. If he didn't, I was dead anyway. A few moments passed, and I was convinced he wouldn't appear. I had my head buried in my hands when I finally heard the soft popping noise.

I looked up to meet his large, curious eyes. They always unnerved me, even as a kid. It was like he could see right through you.

"You betrayed Miss Hermione!" I don't know why it hurt so much coming from him. I'd never heard him speak that way to anyone.

"I didn't have a choice. What's happening at the Order?"

"Headquarters is under attack! Dobby should not be here…" He began to nervously twiddle his thumbs, looking around.

"Take me to the Order, Dobby. I have to help."

"No…" He stayed away from me, on the other side of the door.

"I can't do any more damage than is being done now! I need to explain myself, to protect Hermione. Please…" I'd never begged anyone for anything before, especially not a house elf. He watched me, something akin to sorrow crossing his features. He looked around, seemingly for the first time taking in his surroundings.

"Fine. Master Draco can come."

"Take me back to my room first." He stuck his hand through the bars, and I took it. In my room, I picked up my Invisibility Cloak. I practically tore the place apart looking for my wand. Zabini must have been the one to take it off me, and he wasn't smart enough to do more than simply put it here. As I'd suspected, it lay on the mantle of the fireplace. I was ready to go.

Dobby Apparated me back into Hermione's bedroom. There was crashing and explosions, shaking the very foundations of the house. Every explosion produced another sinking feeling in my stomach. I had to find her.

"Thank you Dobby." I wasn't sure if the house elf heard me, nor did I particularly care. Draping the cloak over my head, I walked out of the room, wand at the ready. Looking over the railing, I could see multiple fights ensuing below. The front of the house had been blown away, much of the fighting going on in the front yard and street. My cousin fought two Death Eaters at a time, unrecognizable because of the cloaks and masks. Behind her, Remus Lupin fought as well. I had to jump back from the balcony as the jet of a spell was reflected and came my way. Another explosion shook the house.

"Hermione!" Tonk's voice brought my attention back over the railing. Hermione had two of her own Death Eaters to deal with. Her reactions were slowing down. I ran down the steps, sidestepping obstacles and shooting a few discrete spells here and there. No one seemed to notice, except for when I helped Tonks. I disarmed one of the Death Eaters about to attack her. She smirked, in a way very similar to my own. As I ran past her, I swore I heard her mumble, "Thanks cousin."

I didn't respond, in too much of a rush to get to Hermione, who had begun to draw her opponents away. I followed them, intercepting a few more spells, hoping to at least make some kind of difference in the fight. I even protected Potter. As I walked through the threshold of the kitchen, the body of a Death Eater slammed into the wall. That one was a product of Potter, the same one I'd protected him from. I took down one of the Death Eaters following her, just as she took down the other. Before she could go back into the thick of the fighting, I pulled her away, drawing her deeper into the house.

"Let me go!" She was about to attack me, when it seemed she realized she couldn't see me. I brought her into an alcove, as another shock hit the house.

"Hermione, it's me!" I drew the cloak away. She pushed at me violently, but I didn't blame her.

"Get away from me!" She had the wand pointed right at my face. I raised my hands, trying to show her I wouldn't do anything. "Traitor! You…you…" Her hand shook. She wouldn't attack me. I didn't know what else to do but kiss her.

I pushed her wand hand out of the way, closing the distance between us in one stride, pushing her deeper into the alcove. My lips pressed against hers, both my arms pulling her close. She fought against me, and I could feel her tears mingling with my own.

~Hermione~

I was crying, almost completely unable to struggle against him. What was he doing to me? He held me closer than ever, kissing me even though I didn't respond. I wanted to respond, so badly. Why was he still doing this? He already betrayed us, there was no cover left to maintain. I caught myself before responding to his kiss.

"No…" It was barely a whisper, but it distracted him enough that I could push him away completely. I didn't look at his face, knowing that if I saw in him what I felt, I wouldn't be able to walk away. I shoved past him, pausing before leaving completely. "I didn't attack you. Consider us even, Malfoy."

I walked out and left him there to join the fray again. I took on another two Death Eaters. It was difficult to keep up with both my attackers, but we were severely outnumbered, and Voldemort had yet to show himself. Was he even going to come at all? The way I saw it, he was better off not showing up at all. He had probably only sent this attack to weaken us. It was working.

My two opponents were practically herding me, cutting off any exit but the one towards the kitchen. Throwing up as many shield charms as I could at a time, I continued to back away, until I made it to the backyard through the kitchen.

~Draco~

My chest had never hurt as much as it did in that moment. Nothing compared to the pain of Hermione shoving me away. Her voice held more ice than I'd heard in a long time. I ignored her order to stay away, however. I couldn't just let her go. I was here to protect her, and I would do just that.

I covered myself once again, following after her. I caught a glimpse of her in the kitchen, having to dodge a few spells in order to follow her to the backyard. She had taken on two Death Eaters again.

I finally made it outside, in time to watch as Hermione took down one of the two Death Eaters, the other casting a Sectumsempra. I ran towards them, unthinking. I threw my arms around her, knocking her to the ground, but not before the spell hit me square in the back.

~Hermione~

The only thing I was aware of were the Death Eaters still attacking me. After I brought one down, the other continued, shooting the spell Harry had attacked Draco with in our sixth year. As hard as I tried not to think of him, it was inevitable. And then I was falling, knocked over by an invisible force. For a second I thought another Death Eater had followed us out here, but I managed to look around as I fell, only seeing my primary attacker.

There was blood midair in front of me, and I immediately realized it was an Invisibility Cloak. Whoever was underneath it had just intercepted one of the deadliest spells ever, and I had a feeling I knew who it was.

When I saw him, I nearly couldn't react. He fell, the cloak falling off him to reveal his shocking blond hair, his pain stricken face. Collapsing face down before me, his eyes captured mine. I had to tear my gaze away as I sat up, wand shaking as I pointed to my attacker a few feet away.

"Avada Kedavra!" In a flash of green light, the Death Eater fell, his mask falling off to reveal a face I didn't recognize. The shock of my first kill wasn't enough to keep me from directing my attention to Draco. I was scrambling to my knees in seconds, "Oh my God…Draco!" I didn't know what to do. I couldn't move him, but there was blood everywhere. I tried putting pressure on the wounds, trying to stop the bleeding. I ran every spell I knew through my mind. "E-Episkey! Episkey!"

I chanted the spell like a mantra, having no way to know how many cuts the Death Eater had inflicted. I could barely see through my tears. After a few seconds, the bleeding seemed to have stopped. There were still explosions going off within the house, but all I could think about was Draco. "Hermione…"

His voice was barely a whisper. He managed to move, turning himself around and trying to sit up. Pain never left his face. He rested against my legs, his head in my lap. I brushed a few locks away from his face.

"Draco…" I couldn't help but continue to cry. What was I going to do? He had lost too much blood. I couldn't just leave him here, but I couldn't abandon the fight.

"Looks like we're not even anymore." He raised a hand to brush my cheek, his thumb caressing my lips. I closed my eyes, letting the tears fall.

"Shut up…" I leaned down, pulling him up slightly, pressing my forehead to his before kissing him. His lips were turning cold.

"I love you…" My heart nearly stopped at the way he said it.

"Don't you dare say that as a good-bye, Draco Malfoy." It didn't sound as threatening as I had wanted. I pulled back, watching his eyes. I willed them not to close, tried to somehow keep him from leaving me. A shuddering sigh escaped me, "I love you too…please…don't…" He pulled me down to his lips again. When I pulled away again, his eyes wouldn't open. "No, no, no, no! Dobby! Dobby, help!"

The house elf appeared, and didn't seem to need more than just examine the scene. He took Draco from my arms, Apparating away. There was blood all over my robes, but I didn't care. I was going back into the fight, and every Death Eater was going to pay.

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