Life Debt

Underhanded Tactics

~Draco~

For a moment, I stood in utter shock at what I'd just done. Not only had I killed a manticore with magic, but the Elder Wand worked properly . It wasn't until Hermione called my attention that I turned around. Lovegood and Tonks were helping her up, and as soon as she was able to stand, she rushed towards me, half-stumbling.

"Draco!" Her hands gripped the front of my robes as she trembled. On instinct, my arms went around her, holding her close. "I thought…I…" She could hardly speak, but I couldn't really blame her.

"Everything's ok, love." I pulled back slightly, and it wasn't until I did that I noticed the blood dripping from her shoulders, where the manticore's claws had dug in. In that instant, she fainted in my arms. "Hermione!" Tonks called to Dobby, and he was able to Apparate us all out of the castle.

~Hermione~

The pain was unbearable. There is something to be said about actual physical pain. I didn't know what was worse; torture via Crucio, or having a manticore's full weight pressing down on me as claws ripped into my skin. The only moment I found release from the pain was when Draco's arms encased me. I could hardly understand what I was saying, let alone what he responded. Seconds later, my world went black.

~Draco~

When we returned to the hideout, I refused to leave Hermione's side. She was placed in the same room I'd been kept. I only left when Lovegood and Weaselette had to undress her to take care of her wounds. When they did, I spoke to Potter as we stood outside the door. I handed him the wand.

"It worked for me." Potter took it, examining it closely. He weighed it in his hand. "See if it works for you." He pointed it at a chair, casting the levitation charm.

"It works for me too." Both of us were taken aback by this, Potter's surprise evident in his tone.

"Back in the castle, I swear I heard it speak to me…it told me to kill the manticore. The magic worked…" We both fell silent as we contemplated what it meant. "Do you…hear anything?"

"It's like it's asking me to use it…almost like tempting me into using it…its voice is almost…seductive…" He handed it back to me. "If it still works for you, then you're its master, I suppose." As I held it, I listened for the voice. Use me… Now that I was paying attention, the pull was almost impossible to resist. A part of me considered keeping it, to Hell with Potter.

"I don't know… If it's working for us both, how do we know which one of us should have it? Besides, you need it to kill Voldemort, right?" If it managed to kill something that was, by nature, impervious to magic, Voldemort wouldn't be able to compare, would he? Potter didn't respond, his eyes far away for a moment. He was deep in thought, as if an idea just occurred to him.

"When we were looking for the horcruxes and learned about the Deathly Hallows, we learned that the Elder Wand had the bloodiest history. Before the wand attained a new owner, the previous one died, be it through a duel or just plain old age. What if the reason it still works is because I simply disarmed you, instead of killing you?" For a moment, I was too stunned to speak. It made perfect sense. Every story I ever heard of the Elder Wand, save one, was bloody and ended in death. The exception was how Grindelwald attained the wand. He stole it from a wand shop, suggesting that its previous owner had died of natural causes, and not as the loser to a bloody duel.

"Then I suppose it's yours anyway." I handed it to him, but he wouldn't receive it.

"I think you should hold onto it for now." Something in his eyes betrayed fear. What was he afraid of? Without asking questions, I pocketed it again. He nodded before walking away as Weaselette and Lovegood exited the room. I replaced them, closing the door behind me as I made my way to Hermione. They had conjured new clothes for her, having done away with the bloodied garments. Forgoing the chair completely, I sat on the bed, taking her hand in mine. Her chest moved up and down slowly, the only hint that she was still alive.

~Hermione~

When I woke up, it was to the feel of a warm weight beside me, an arm draped around me, a hand resting at my hip. The last thing I remembered was being attacked by that manticore. I had to take pause to gather my bearings. They must have brought me back to the hideout. Draco lay beside me, probably having fallen asleep waiting for me to wake up.

"Draco?" He stirred, and in seconds he was up, fussing over me.

"Are you alright? Does anything hurt?" He caressed my face, my shoulders where the manticore had pressed his claws, careful not to put to much pressure.

"I'm fine. What happened? How did you kill the manticore?" He pulled a wand out of his pocket, but it wasn't the one I expected. Instead, he held the Elder Wand in his grasp. "The Elder Wand? Manticores can't be killed with magic."

"This wand is an exception, apparently. It worked."

"Wait-it worked for you? So you're its master now?" He pocketed it again, shrugging.

"We're not sure. Potter and I were discussing it, and it works for him as well." He went on to tell me how the wand emitted an alluring voice, and how Harry had opted to let him hold onto it, for now, anyway.

"Oh."

"I tried to give it to Potter, but he wouldn't take it."

"He probably doesn't want it. He was never the type to want more power…and if the voice coming from the wand is anything to go by, its clearly more than just an ordinary wand. Given its bloody history, it probably entices the holder, and Harry was always susceptible to outside influences." This was the only explanation. Harry's terrible history with Occlumency made it clear that he would always have trouble fighting anything that could get in his head, the Elder Wand included. He would wait, save to use it when he had to face Voldemort. Even then, if and when he won, he would probably never use it again.

~Draco~

I didn't get an opportunity to respond. Suddenly, Hermione doubled over, her body jerking. She was shaking, sounds of pain overtaking the room.

"Hermione, are you alright? What's happening?" She grabbed onto my arm, squeezing it. I would give anything to transfer the pain away from her and into me.

"G-Get…L-Luna…" I wasn't willing to leave her side. She slammed back into the mattresses, her body arching in pain. "Go!" She let go of my arm, opting instead to grab the mattress in her pained grip.

"Lovegood!" I stormed out of the room, dashing like a madman to the living area. There, everyone sat discussing our next plan of action. "It's Hermione…she…" I couldn't put it to words. I didn't know what was wrong with her, so all I could do was beckon her to come, to follow me back to Hermione's room. When we got back, she was still writhing in pain, her cheeks now stained with tears. This was somehow worse than when I witnessed my aunt torturing her. I was frozen to the spot as Lovegood and the others pushed past me from the doorway. I finally made my way through the throng, placing myself beside her, letting her take my hand again. My free hand went straight to her face, trying to calm her.

"Hermione, love, fight it. Whatever this is, you're better. You're always better." It sounded almost like I was comforting both of us. The thought of losing her was creeping close, and I did my best to keep it at bay.

Molly Weasley made everyone leave, letting only the women stay. She shot an apologetic look in my direction, and her son placed a hand on my arm and led me out. It seemed like letting go of her hand was the single hardest thing I'd ever done.

~Hermione~

This pain was something else. A Crucio is one thing, manticore claws are bad, but this, this was in a league of its own. Every inch of me felt like it was being torn apart and burnt at the same time. My insides were boiling, and I wanted nothing more than to tear my skin off, to cool myself down. My blood was on fire.

I could hardly speak, exclamations of pain and agony all my throat would allow out. Through the pain, however, I could hear the commotion around me. I tried to focus on the voices, to focus on Draco's reassurances, his eyes as they held mine. Then, Molly's voice rang out, and he was gone. I could only catch bits and pieces of conversation after that.

"…manticore poison?"

"No…delayed." They seemed to be exchanging theories as the removed my clothes. This couldn't be a product of the manticores, could it? Manticore poison was not only lethal, it was instant. I could no longer see what was going on around me, my body worn to the point where keeping my eyes open was a feat in itself. Just before I shut down entirely, I heard a gasp, seemingly coming from Luna.

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