Disclaimer: For the majority of this chapter, the dialogue and the details of what happened come directly from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and thus belong to J.K. Rowling. In the interest of keeping as true to the books as possible, I have incorporated her words into this part of my story. The description is written differently, as I don't wish to plagiarize, and Hermione and Malfoy do have an ongoing conversation as they go through the memory. I have kept the majority of details from the book the same, with the exception that Harry was not awake and aware of what was going on.
Hope you enjoy!
Malfoy and I landed on our feet in the middle of a clearing, in the forbidden forest. There was a fire, illuminating a crowd of Death Eaters and two giants. Voldemort was standing, silent, Nagini floating behind him in a cage, protected. I caught site of Narcissa and Lucius Malfoy at the edge of the crowd. They both looked terrified.
"What is this?" I asked.
Malfoy didn't answer. There was a rustling in the woods to my left, and I turned. Dolohov entered the clearing.
"No sign of him, my Lord."
Suddenly, I realized where I was. I took a step back.
"No, I don't want to see this—"
"It's important," Malfoy said as he grabbed my hand.
In the deafening silence, Bellatrix Lestrange spoke up. "My Lord—"
Voldemort raised a hand, and she fell silent.
"I thought he would come," he said, disappointment in his voice. "I expected him to come. I was, it seems...mistaken."
My breath caught in my throat. Harry walked out of the shadows, head up high. The Death Eaters and giants all cried out, laughed, cheered, but I didn't hear any of the noise. I just watched, horrified, as Harry walked closer and closer to the Dark Lord.
I spun around. Hagrid was tied to a tree, struggling against his bonds. "NO! NO! HARRY, WHAT'RE YEH—?"
"QUIET!" yelled one of the Death Eaters, and Hagrid's mouth was forced shut.
The entire clearing was silent. I stared back and forth between Harry and Voldemort, my heart sinking with every passing second.
"Harry Potter," Voldemort hissed. "The boy who lived."
He raised his wand. Harry stared back at him, strong, like a statue. I wanted to look away, but couldn't.
I let out a small cry and covered my mouth as Harry crumbled to the ground. Malfoy held tightly to my hand.
"He didn't even try to fight," I breathed. "He just—stood there."
"Look," Malfoy said softly, nodding toward Voldemort.
I reluctantly tore my eyes away from Harry to see that the Dark Lord had fallen to the ground as well. Bellatrix was leaning over him, whispering "my Lord" over and over again. He appeared to be unconscious.
It didn't last long. Soon he was getting to his feet, and the concerned Death Eaters stepped away from him.
"My Lord, let me—" Bellatrix said, reaching out to him.
"I do not require assistance," Voldemort snapped. His red eyes locked on Harry's body. "The boy...is he dead?"
No one answered. I felt the tension in the clearing, the unspoken fear. No one wanted to step forward, to examine Harry's body.
"You." Voldemort pointed his wand at Narcissa, and she let out a small cry. "Examine him. Tell me whether he is dead."
Malfoy's mother cautiously approached Harry. She pulled back an eyelid, felt underneath his shirt. She paused for a moment before sitting up.
"He is dead!"
The clearing burst into cheers. Sparks shot out of wands into the air, people stomped on the ground. My lip quivered as I stared at Harry's lifeless body.
"Why are you showing me this?" I asked Malfoy over the noise. "Why are you torturing me?"
"It's what happens in front of Hogwarts that's really important."
"I know what happened in front of Hogwarts! I was there!"
"Just be patient," he said, gripping my hand tighter. "You can always look away."
But I couldn't look away. Voldemort yelled something to the crowd, something I didn't understand, and pointed his wand once more at Harry.
I watched in horror as Harry's body was thrown into the air over and over again, limp, helpless. His glasses fell to the ground. The Death Eaters jeered and laughed. Voldemort waved his wand and Nagini's cage disappeared. She draped herself around his neck.
"Now," said Voldemort, "we go to the castle, and show them what has become of their hero. Who shall drag the body? No—Wait—"
He pointed his wand at Hagrid and forced him to step forward. "You carry him. He will be nice and visible in your arms, will he not? Pick up your little friend, Hagrid. And the glasses—put on the glasses—he must be recognizable."
My heart broke as Hagrid picked up Harry, his body shaking with sobs. The Death Eaters began to move in a procession toward the castle. Malfoy and I followed them. I did my best to ignore everything the Death Eaters around me were saying. We passed the centaurs, and Hagrid yelled something. Soon we reached the edge of the forest, and Voldemort commanded the army to stop. Dementors surrounded them, and I shut my eyes, wanting to escape this nightmare.
The Dark Lord amplified his voice. I remembered his speech almost word for word. He told us Harry was dead, told us that the only way to save ourselves and our families was to join him. I remembered the terror I felt at that moment, holding on to Ron for dear life.
The army moved forward a few yards, closer to the castle. McGonagall was the first to emerge, and she screamed. Bellatrix and a few of the other Death Eaters laughed horribly.
I watched as Ron, Ginny, and I ran out of the castle. I closed my eyes tightly as I listened to our screams.
Ron grabbed Ginny and held her back. I remember thinking how this couldn't be true, this couldn't be how it all was going to end.
He couldn't be gone.
The crowd of people behind us burst into yells and cries until Voldemort screamed "SILENCE!" and cast a spell over all of us. He made Hagrid set Harry on the ground, at his feet. My blood boiled.
"You see? Harry Potter is dead! Do you understand now, deluded ones? He was nothing, ever, but a boy who relied on others to sacrifice themselves for him!"
"He beat you!" yelled Ron, breaking the spell. Hearing his voice, seeing his bravery, my heart soared and broke at the same time.
Once more the crowd shouted and screamed, but we were soon silenced again.
"He was killed while trying to sneak out of the castle grounds, killed while trying to save himself—"
Neville broke free of the crowd and charged at Voldemort. With a flick of his wrist, the Dark Lord disarmed him, and he fell to the ground with a grunt. I watched as Voldemort approached him, taunted him. Neville stood firmly, seemingly unafraid.
"You will make a very valuable Death Eater," Voldemort was saying. "We need your kind, Neville Longbottom."
"I'll join you when hell freezes over," Neville yelled. "Dumbledore's Army!"
The crowd cheered. I'd felt so much pride for Neville in that moment, and hope.
But it was short lived. Voldemort summoned the Sorting Hat, forced it on Neville's head, and set it aflame. I watched helpless as he screamed, burning, unable to move.
Suddenly, a crowd of people emerged from the forest. Grawp ran out from behind the castle. The centaurs rode out, sending arrows flying at the Death Eaters. That moment had been complete chaos.
I looked back at Neville just in time to see him draw the sword of Gryffindor and slay Nagini. Ron, Ginny and I were running toward him, but we were too late—a curse came shooting out of Voldemort's wand and knocked him to the ground, unconscious. Ginny tried to keep running, tried to reach Harry, but Ron and I put ourselves between her and Voldemort. He waved his wand, and all three of us flew backward, landing hard on the ground. We all struggled to our feet, but Death Eaters were surrounding us, overpowering us—
"Over here, Granger."
I tore myself away from the scene and rejoined Malfoy by Harry's body. His mother was searching his pockets. After a moment she found the invisibility cloak and pulled it out. Her eyes seemed to shine a little brighter.
"Narcissa, what are you doing?"
Lucius hurried over to her. Everyone else was headed to the castle, caught up in the battle.
Narcissa looked up. "He's alive, Lucius. He survived, again."
"That's not possible," Lucius breathed.
"Apparently, it is."
"You said he was dead!" her husband exclaimed. "You lied to the Dark Lord!"
"It was the only way to save his life!"
"And whywould we do that?"
"Our son could be dead in there, and for what?" she hissed. "Any promises he made to us about power and glory are empty. I know you're just as terrified as I am, and the fear will never stop unless we do something."
Lucius looked around, his fear even more prominent on his face. He hesitated a moment.
"Cover him with the cloak," he whispered. "We don't have much time."
I watched as Harry disappeared. The Malfoys walked away. I moved follow them, but something was pulling me out of the memory. I tried to fight it, tried to stay in the moment, but it was no use. Soon I was back in that dimly lit room, standing over the pensieve.
"What happened?" I demanded, rounding on Malfoy. "What did they do with him?"
"They found another body and put it in his place. Using Polyjuice potion, of course. Then they smuggled Potter out of the country."
"Why? Your father was the one who was torturing me after I was captured! He was never on our side!"
"It's like my mother said," Malfoy folded his arms, "in the end, they had nothing to gain from this war. In fact, they'd lost almost everything. My mother realized that keeping Harry alive was our only chance at ever beating the Emperor, and my father went along with it to protect her."
"Where is he now?" I breathed. "Why didn't he come for me?"
Malfoy uncrossed his arms and sat. "Because he's in a coma. He has been since that night."
"He's been in a coma for the past seven years," Malfoy repeated. "Don't worry, I have the best doctors and nurses money can buy looking after him."
"Where is he? I want to see him!"
"You will. We'll have to come up with an excuse, though. He is out of the country."
"The less you know right now the better, just in case someone probes your mind." He paused. "You do know occlumency, don't you?"
I hesitated. "Yes, and no. I taught myself some in the years leading up to the battle, but never really had any practice."
"Then you'll have to start practicing." He stood. "The Emperor might be coming to the engagement party tomorrow night, and if he does you have to be prepared to at least hide your true identity from him."
"And everything else? Harry still being alive, this secret room—"
"Let him find out about the room. In fact, you can report it to Lord Greengrass. They won't find anything in here to implicate me, but you reporting it will make them trust you more, and possible get us more information. I'm sure that together we can make another safe-haven."
"I'll spend some time in the library when I get a chance and look into it."
He smirked. "Why do I get the feeling you say that often?"
I hid a smile from him. "After the engagement party, we can say we're taking a trip together to celebrate. That'll be our excuse to get away and see him. I'll send reports to Lord Greengrass while we're away telling him we're somewhere else, throwing him off our trail."
"Good idea." His smile widened. "You know, I wasn't sure if you could pull this off."
I sent him a sideways look before opening up the picnic basket. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"That Astoria's personality is pretty much the opposite of yours, and I wasn't sure you could handle being thrown into the middle of the Emperor's politics."
"I can handle anything if it means saving Harry and beating Vol—the Dark Lord once and for all." I paused. "The diary is helping. I'm getting a better sense of who she was."
Malfoy joined me on the ground and pulled out a sandwich. "You can say his name in here, you know. Just now out there."
"Last time one of us said his name we were captured by snatchers and brought to your dungeon."
He suppressed a laugh. "That was a long time ago."
"An eternity," I mumbled.
We fell into silence. After a few minutes, Malfoy swallowed a bite of his sandwich and cleared his throat.
"Azkaban—being alone, always wondering what happened to everyone else—that must have been awful."
I glanced at him before looking back at my food. "It was," I said softly.
"Did you ever think about—I don't know—ending it all? Just starving yourself, or smashing your head against the wall, or something?"
"Honestly, the thought of suicide didn't really cross my mind. There were many times I wished I would die, but taking my own life—it just never occurred to me. Maybe if I'd been in there a couple more years I would have gotten to that point."
I stopped eating and looked at him with furrowed eyebrows. "Why do you ask?"
He sighed. "When I visited my mother, I could tell she'd stopped eating. I don't know if she'll stick to it or give in the next time she's brought food, but she hasn't even been in there that long so—I was just wondering if you'd ever thought about it."
He stared at his sandwich. I frowned, a little surprised that I was actually feeling sorry for him. I scooted a little closer to him and put my hand on his knee.
"I'm sorry," I said.
"What kept you going?"
I shrugged. "I guess, even at my lowest, I always held on to a tiny spark of hope. That's why I carved those words into my wall. The hope and the faith that all the sacrifice, all the death, wasn't pointless. That somehow, someday, the world will be a better place because of what we did, or tried to do."
He eyed me with an expression I couldn't quite place. Feeling uncomfortable, I took my hand off his knee and picked up my sandwich again.
We ate the rest of our meal in silence. When we were both finished, Malfoy stood as I packed things up.
"Guess we should say goodbye to this place," he said wryly. "We won't be able to come back here again after you talk to Lord Greengrass."
"If you don't come back, it'll look suspicious," I said as I stood. "Don't do anything to incriminate yourself, but don't make them think you know they know about this room either."
He smirked again. "I see why Potter kept you around."
Again, I hid a smile.
Malfoy took my hand as we stepped outside. As we headed back to the manor, we discussed a wedding date. Naturally, we set it as far in the future as we could without being conspicuous. Malfoy decided he'd announce the date at the engagement party the next evening.
The idea of attending that event sent my stomach into knots. Yes, I'd told him I could handle it, but that didn't mean it wasn't going to be extremely difficult. I had to get through the diary, learn as much as I could about who Astoria was, who her friends were, how she'd act.
When we walked through the front door of the manor, Lord Greengrass was descending the main staircase. He forced a smile when he saw us.
"I see the happy couple has returned from their long lunch," he said. "Anything interesting happen?"
"We finally decided on a wedding date," I said, leaning in to Malfoy and putting on my best smile. "We plan on announcing it at the party tomorrow, but if you'd like to know—"
"I can wait until then. You go ahead and keep it a surprise." His smile seemed even more strained. "Darling, I wonder if I might have a moment of your time."
"Of course, Father."
I handed Malfoy the basket and stood on my tiptoes to kiss him. He raised his eyebrows slightly, seemingly surprised that I was suddenly playing along. I sent him a small smirk before turning away and following Lord Greengrass into the study.
In truth, I wasn't entirely sure why I was more willing to go along with his plan now than a couple hours ago. All I knew was I was determined to do anything to bring Harry back and defeat Voldemort. And if that meant pretending to be in love with Draco Malfoy, so be it.
When we reached the study, Lord Greengrass closed the door. "Please tell me you have something worth mentioning."
I put on a mischievous grin. "As a matter of fact, I did find something interesting. It's in the gardens."
A/N: Please review! I would ever so appreciate it :)