He can't leave the room. Her room. And it's all the Order's fault. Confined to a small space with only the Mudblood for company, something's going to give. Maybe his sanity. Maybe not. "There," she spat. "Now your Blood's filthy too!" DM/HG. PostHBP.


46. Mercy

Hermione could only watch as Madam Pomfrey and several others carefully levitated the dead and ushered the injured to the antechamber behind the High Table, out of harm's way. As the final body, Colin Creevey, disappeared behind the door, the wave of Death Eaters flooded into the Great Hall and began attacking anyone and everyone they could. It was then she noticed Charlie Weasley, Madam Rosmerta, and Ambrosius Flume nearby, and as she scanned the room, she noticed hundreds of other new fighters, mainly family members of her fellow students and the residents of Hogsmeade. And then, from the entrance hall, a swarm of House-elves stormed in, led by Kreacher.

The Death Eaters were outnumbered now. There must have been at least three Hogwarts defenders to each Death Eater, but victory was far from certain; their repertoire of Dark Magic was an issue. Dark spells erupted and crackled all around her like rogue fireworks. Regardless, Dumbledore's Army appeared to have the upper hand, and even Voldemort himself seemed to know this, his serpentine features stretched with panic and his eyes darting around the room. But still, he fired curses in every direction possible, bringing down two Hogwarts defenders with one awful blast of his wand.

In her peripheral vision, Hermione saw a shift in the room; McGonagall, Slughorn, and Shacklebolt all seemed to change direction at once and move through the crowd towards Voldemort. Lifting her head and trying to make sense of the bedlam in the hall, she noticed Ron, Neville, and Katie Bell at the back battling Dolohov. Nearby, Lee and Seamus were tackling Goyle's father, and not too from them she could see Blaise, Miles, and Dean fighting with Rookwood. As her eyes scanned the area, she locked eyes with Narcissa on the other side of the room, but the older witch looked away to recommence her duel with Macnair. Some Hogwarts defenders close by glanced at her with mixed expressions of surprise and respect, but everyone was too busy fighting for their lives to pay her too much heed.

"Watch out, Hermione!"

She ducked instinctively, and a hot curse singed the tips of her curls. Spinning around, she aimed her wand and stunned Jugson before he could try again. Turning, she nodded her head in thanks to Fred for warning her, but then he and George were preoccupied with defeating Rowle.

Hermione looked this way and that, overwhelmed by all the duels going on around her. Where should she begin? Which Death Eater should she attempt to tackle first?

Behind her, there was a grunt of pain, followed by the unmistakable, sinister chuckle of Bellatrix. Hermione whipped around to see Luna wiping blood off her chin and raising her wand at Bellatrix, who was also dueling Ginny. With a smug look on her face, the dark witch shot a curse at Ginny and then another at Luna. Both managed to deflect the spells, but Bellatrix was so quick that they barely had a chance to retaliate with offensive magic.

Hermione didn't hesitate; she maneuvered through the crowd toward them. That ever-present voice of reason in her head warned her that using Bellatrix's own wand against her would be problematic, but, for once, she ignored that voice. Her friends needed help and, although she might deny it if asked, there was a tug of revenge in her gut pulling her towards Bellatrix. Fuelled by resentment and loathing that had been festering inside of her since the night Bellatrix had tortured her to within an inch of her life, Hermione could feel the heat of her anger in her cheeks.

She lifted Bellatrix's wand as if it was her own and narrowed her eyes, battle-ready.



Draco tapped Andromeda's wand against his leg and cocked his head to the side.

He hadn't realised it until now, but at some point he had grown taller than his father. Perhaps he had revered his father so much that he had just always seemed bigger and more impressive. Draco had also never perceived his father as old, but there was silver stubble lining Lucius' jaw and hints of grey streaking through his blond hair now. He looked very different, but it didn't make it any easier. A small part of Draco just wanted to turn and run and avoid this confrontation altogether.

Lucius remained silent. He was eyeing up Draco like he was a stranger who had wandered into his territory, with suspicion and animosity. His wand was out, but, like Draco, he kept it at his side in a tight fist, ready if needed. Pacing back and forth a couple of times, but never looking away, he reminded Draco of a caged dragon, debating whether the person on the other side of the bars was predator or prey.

Draco stood still, tapping Andromeda's wand against his leg again with impatience. The distance between them was small — perhaps only fifteen feet — but it felt like so much more than that. The last time Draco had seen his father had been during his trial just after fifth year, which meant that it had been almost two years since they'd been in the same room together. And it felt like two years. More, in fact. Draco felt like he had experienced enough in two years to fulfill a lifetime.

In those two years, Draco had almost murdered a man, been presumed dead, hidden away from the world to avoid being killed, battled his prejudices, fallen in love with a one-time enemy, met family members he had never known before, fought in an ongoing war, and watched his friend die.

It was no wonder Lucius was regarding him like a stranger; he was one. Even his fifteen-year-old self would never be able to comprehend who he had become in the last two years. How could Lucius even begin to grasp the choices he had made? And, in turn, how could Draco ever begin to grasp the choices that Lucius had made?

They were miles apart. There was no loyalty, no empathy, no love...not even the faintest hint of understanding on either side.

However, there was a niggling, persistent tug of nostalgia pulling at Draco, but it was quiet and fading. All he could truly connect with was the ever-growing bitterness, swelling up inside of him like a tumor. His mother had managed to find a way out and assist the Order, but Lucius had never even tried. That was what pained Draco the most. A father should always fight for his son, but Lucius had not tried. He had just stood there like a passive bystander, accepting whatever Voldemort had demanded or inflicted without any attempt to fight it.

And he had killed Theo.

He had killed Theo.

When Lucius finally spoke, Draco was certain that he had bruised his leg from tapping Andromeda's wand against it so much.

"You're supposed to be dead."

"Sorry to disappoint you," said Draco calmly. "Your welcome home party is shit."

"Shut up!" growled Lucius. "What the hell do you think you are doing, boy?"

"Do not call me boy! You have evidently made the decision that I am no longer of any consequence to you. Why should I tell you anything?"

"You owe me an explanation-

"I owe you fuck all!"

"Don't you dare use that kind of language with me, boy!"

"I am NOT your boy!" yelled Draco furiously. "I am not your anything anymore! You made that call about ten minutes ago in front of everyone! Remember?"

Lucius inhaled sharply through his nostrils, his nose wrinkled with disgust. "What the hell did you expect when you showed up here with that...thing and kissed it in public like it's acceptable?"

"Her name is Hermione Granger."

"Spare me the repulsive details."

Draco clicked his tongue and looked his father up and down. "So, what the hell happened to you? You look like shit. You've obviously been tortured by your oh-so-wonderful leader-

"I was punished for the mistakes that you made!" he shouted. "The Dark Lord had to punish me because you failed to accomplish-

"Had to punish? Are you — Do you even hear yourself? How fucked up is your head?"

"My head? You disappear for a year and then come back from the dead with that vermin attached to your arm and fighting for the bloody Order, and you have the nerve to question my sanity?"

"Her name," hissed Draco, "Is Hermione Granger."

"So that's where you've been for the last year? Living in a fucking Muggle house with that-

"No, I was here! I was at Hogwarts, and then I stayed with Andromeda-

Lucius' dry, dark chuckle cut him off. "Ah, that explains it. Your mother's mental sister. Should have guessed it was one of her unfortunate relatives that brainwashed you."

"She was a better parent to me in a few months than you have been in the last few years!"

"Don't be so dramatic. Grow up!"

"I have grown up and you took NO part in it!" Draco's voice bellowed so loudly it hurt his own ears. "Did you not even think to question Voldemort after you found out he had threatened to kill me? And mum? Did you try to find out what had happened to me after you heard I was dead? Did you, for one sodding moment, give a fuck?"

Lucius switched his wand to his other hand and Draco watched the gesture intently. The battle roaring in the Great Hall had distracted him a couple of times; several familiar raised voices had caught his attention and the grip on his wand had slackened slightly. He needed to stay alert. His father's movements and behaviour were too erratic for him to be careless.

"My son died," said Lucius crisply. "I did my mourning. As far as I'm concerned, my son is still dead."

Each word was like a dart, but Draco didn't flinch. "Then what the hell am I?"

"You are nothing," he spat. "No son of mine would touch a Mudblood."

"Her name is Hermione Granger!"

"I know her fucking name! I was the one who identified her at the Manor!"

Draco clenched his jaw and stole a second to compose himself. He was nearly shaking with fury. But no. No. He had an advantage: information.

"You didn't help Granger." It was a statement, not a question.

"Of course I didn't."

"But mother did. Mum tried to help Granger."

Lucius didn't even attempt to conceal his shock. "What are you talking about?"

"You heard me. I've got news for you, father; both your son and your wife are here fighting with the Order. And she tried to help Granger-

"You're lying-

"She used Legilimency on Granger and saw us together and she tried to help her at the Manor. And then, when she realised I was alive, she went to Snape — who was also working for the Order, by the way — and asked to help-

"Narcissa would not-

"And she knew that I was with Granger and she didn't care. Your own bloody wife abandoned you because she knew how deranged you'd become!"

Lucius' left eye twitched. "No, I would have known-

"You would have known nothing! You are oblivious, father!" He paused to catch his breath; his chest was heaving. "Don't you get it? You. Are. Alone."

"Shut up!"

"I WILL NOT!" screamed Draco. "Mum left you because she knew you would disown me when you found out about Granger! She knew you would turn your back on your own flesh and blood, all because of your mindless devotion to that fucking creature you call a Lord!"

A fleeting look of panic flashed in Lucius' eyes. "She would never betray me," he whispered to himself.

"You sure about that? You don't look sure." Perhaps it was cruel to taunt, but Draco was beyond caring. "Do you honestly think for a second that Mum would choose Voldemort over me? Her own son? No! Because she's not like you!"

"She wouldn't."

"Why?" snapped Draco. "Because you're her husband? Because of loyalty? Where the hell was your loyalty to us when you brought Voldemort into our lives? What the fuck were you even thinking getting us involved with that? You put him before us!"

The brief flicker of doubt that had stolen Lucius' features disappeared and in its place returned a cold, loathing expression. He was incensed, but there was also...emptiness. A chilling sort of vacancy, like any final, tenacious light inside of Lucius had been extinguished. "I don't recall hearing either of you complain."

"I was fifteen and I-

"Yes, and now you're seventeen and a Blood Traitor. And not just a Blood Traitor," sneered Lucius. "A fucking Mudblood lover."

"That's right," said Draco, nodding his head firmly. "I do love her."

"Oh please-

"And you can stand there and deny me all you want, but I am still your son-

"You are not-

"I am still a Malfoy, and the only Malfoy heir." With each word, Draco could see his father's face becoming more and more overrun with rage, but he carried on. "And I am telling you now, Lucius, that all of this Malfoy Pureblood brainwashing bullshit ends with me."

Lucius' nostrils flared and his lips peeled back, baring his grinding teeth, but he didn't speak.

"Do you hear me?" pushed Draco. "All the hatred and lies that have been passed down through the Malfoy generations are done. Finished."

Draco was so lost in his rant that he didn't notice his father's wand twitch tellingly in his trembling fist.

"And when all this is over," Draco continued, "And you're rotting in some lonely cell in Azkaban, I hope you have a fraction of your sanity left so you know that it was your son who broke the chain! And that in the outside world, I keep the Malfoy name! And that if you have any grandchildren, they will probably be Half-bloods!"

Apparently, that comment was too much for Lucius. Like a struck match, he was alive and dangerous in an instant, seething with ire and snapping out his wand arm to aim directly at Draco's chest. But Draco was quick to react. The adrenaline was pounding so hard in his ears that he didn't catch the incantation spitting out of his father's mouth, but it didn't matter; Draco raised his wand just in time to disarm Lucius with a fast Expelliarmus. His father's wand — still hot and charged — landed in his ready hand, and then he rushed forward, firing a spell to pin Lucius against the wall.

Marching towards him with long, stamping strides, Draco grabbed the scruff his father's Death Eater robes and forced their faces close, so Lucius had no choice but to look him in the eye. Draco's heart was like a stampede in his chest, loud and hammering so hard that he felt like his bones vibrated with it. It took Draco a moment to gather himself; he was panting violently and he couldn't tell if it was from the haste of the last two minutes or because he was so furious.

"What spell was that?" he sputtered between gasping breaths. "Was that an Avada?"

Lucius snarled back at him, and Draco noticed the blood on his teeth; he looked like he was biting down hard on his tongue. Taking a step backwards, he released Lucius' robes and allowed the spell to hold him firmly against the wall. The tip of Lucius' wand was still glowing with the residue of the incomplete spell, and the fading light was green, but not the deep, thick green of the Killing Curse. With his other hand, he raised Andromeda's wand and aimed it at his father's, mumbling, "Prior Incantato."

A moment later and Draco spun back around to face Lucius with an eerily composed expression. "Really? A Memory Charm?"

Lucius remained silent.

"And apparently quite a strong one," said Draco. "Strong enough to give me brain damage and see me as a permanent resident at St. Mungo's, by the looks of it. Your wand is still warm."

Still no response.

"You were going to erase my memory completely, weren't you? You were going to erase me."

Lucius still refused to utter a word and Draco's cool facade cracked. Lunging forward, he fisted his hands tighter into his father's robes, pulled him forward, and then slammed his body hard back against the wall.

"Speak!" he yelled in his father's face. "Say something!"

Lucius grunted, but slowly lifted his head and glared at Draco with thin, terrible eyes. "Better no Malfoy bloodline at all than an impure one."

For the second time that day, Draco felt the threat of tears sting the backs of his eyes, but, unlike the last, these would not fall. They were angry, searing tears that hurt to hold in, but hold them in he did. That was it then; the final — and it really was this time — blow. No more little boy hopes for some chance of reconciliation. It was all just...gone. Lucius' sanity and rationality, Draco's respect and admiration, their relationship as father and son...all of these things were gone. For good.

But he felt no loss. No longing or hope anymore. Not a hint. Instead what punctured the surface of his being was that familiar and almost comforting bite of rage. It came to him in a calm and steady wave, warming his face and cooling everywhere else. He grasped his father's robes again. Tighter.

"Did you kill Theo?"

Lucius seemed thrown by the sudden question. "What did you-

"DID YOU KILL THEO?" he screamed.

A chilling glint of comprehension invaded his eyes and his upper lip curled back with disdain. "Theodore Nott got in the way."

Draco inhaled sharply. "In the way of the falling wall? Or you?"

"Me," said Lucius without hesitation or regret.

Draco exhaled, but his chest felt tight and constricted. For a moment he thought he was suffocating. Painful flashbacks of Theo dying on the cold Great Hall floor penetrated his mind, attacking like nightmares that had come to life and were playing out before him. His eyes clenched shut. Darkness was better than those memories.

He was sweating and trembling with the effort that comes with exercising restraint; he wanted so badly to punch his father, but there seemed no point or dignity in that. And if he punched Lucius once, he wasn't sure he'd be able to stop. His eyes opened.


Lucius licked his bloody teeth. "Why? Because I saw that ungrateful little bastard kill his father."

Draco felt nauseous; the acidic burn of vomit scorched his throat and his vision blurred at the sides. He didn't know what to say. Words came and went without registering, and he couldn't cling to one specific thought in his shambolic brain.

But he had known.

Somehow, on some level, he had known (or at least anticipated) that Theo's death had been intentional. An accident would have been too easy. Too fair. And, as Draco had long ago learned, things were rarely easy or fair. As Theo had once said years ago: Life's a bitch and then you die.

"Tell me," said Lucius casually, cutting through Draco's thoughts. "Do you intend to imitate him?"


"Do you intend to mimic what he did?" he asked. "Did you two make some pathetic Blood Traitor pact together to kill your fathers? "

He thought about it. He really did. A flashback of Theo struck him like lightening; his friend sitting across the table and asking, "Do you think you could kill your father?" Draco had known the answer back then and he knew it now. He remembered he had told Theo, "I'd do what was necessary."

"No," said Draco shaking his head regretfully. "Believe me, a part of me wishes that I could, but...but I'm not like you. I'm not a murderer."

"Then what exactly do you intend to do with me?"

Draco didn't respond. Instead, he lifted his father's wand again, grasping it with both hands, and snapped it. Or at least tried to. The wood was too strong to break it in half completely, but it was cracked and splintered, hanging limply like a broken arm. Unusable. Tossing it over his shoulder, Draco returned his eyes to his father's enraged ones.

"You were right about one thing," he said slowly. "I am not your son. Not anymore."

Lucius' left eye was twitching again.

"But everything else you ever told me...about Muggle-borns and Muggles and everything, it was all lies. And killed my friend..."

Draco sighed and took a few steps back, and with a flick of Andromeda's wand, he released the spell fixing Lucius to the wall. His father seemed momentarily stunned by the gesture, but his bitter, livid expression quickly fell back into place.

"If you go in the Great Hall now, you will be killed or apprehended before they send you to Azkaban," said Draco, his tone deceptively steady. "And I can assure you that should you go to trial, I will be there to help make sure that you are locked up for good-

"You snivelling piece of-

"I wasn't finished!" he barked. "I don't need you in my life. I don't want you in my life. I have people. I have Granger, and mother, and Blaise, and Dromeda. But you? You have no one, and that's exactly what you deserve."

Lucius' nostrils flared and he shifted his feet anxiously.

"I want you to leave," said Draco firmly. "I don't ever want to see you again. I want you to disappear. I want you to...erase yourself from my life."

"And where exactly do you expect me to go?" asked Lucius.

"I don't care. You're nothing to me anymore."

With one final, hard glare at the man he would never again call father, Draco spun on his heel and sprinted towards the Great Hall. Behind him, Lucius was screaming, demanding that he return, but Draco kept running. He was done. So completely and utterly done. As the sounds of the battle ricocheted around the hall and drowned out Lucius' voice, something told Draco that he would never hear his voice again.

But he didn't look back.



Hermione was in trouble. Real trouble.

Bellatrix's wand was being far more disobedient than she'd anticipated; even casting shields was problematic. Unable to fully defend herself, she had already acquired a black eye and a few bleeding gashes from Bellatrix's relentless spells, and she hadn't even had a chance yet to attempt any sort of attack. Bellatrix was far too fast and skilled even against the three of them. With experience and power on her side, she was practically untouchable.

With a slash of her new wand, Bellatrix caught Luna right in the stomach and sent her flying backwards about twenty feet away. Cackling to herself with unmitigated glee, she then whipped around and hit Ginny with a spell that seemed to knock the wind out of her completely, and Hermione could only watch as her friend's eyes rolled back into her head before she collapsed to the ground, unconscious.

And then, in what felt like slow motion, Bellatrix turned to Hermione, flashing her jagged teeth with a depraved, sinister smirk. Hermione's breath was wedged somewhere between her mouth and lungs, choking her, but she forced herself to recover quickly. Standing as tall and proud as she could, she met Bellatrix's stare head-on and prepared herself for whatever was coming.

"Silly little Mudblood," snickered Bellatrix in that scratching, high-pitched voice of hers. "Did you honestly think you could defeat me with my own wand?"

Hermione's voice failed her between the heavy heaves of her chest and the fear she felt. She tried to resist, but her thoughts dragged her back to her final confrontation with Bellatrix back at Malfoy Manor. The Mudblood scar on her arm suddenly felt very prominent and inflamed. But still, determination kept her blood pumping, and — in what was arguably a reckless move — she fired a Stunning Spell.

Effortlessly, Bellatrix deflected it and retaliated with a curse that struck Hermione directly in her chest and caused what felt like an electric shock to course throughout her body. It hurt like hell, and Hermione released a scream as she sank to her knees. When she lifted her head, Bellatrix looked like a giddy schoolgirl, laughing with delight.

"Aw, the Mudblood fell down," she said, pouting with contrived concern. "So sad. So tragic. I wonder how poor, little Draco will react when he discovers I killed you. That was quite the show you two put on outside. I always knew he was useless."

Hermione gritted her teeth and tried to stand, but Bellatrix shot the same curse at her.

"Stay down!" yelled Bellatrix. "You will not escape from me this time."

As Bellatrix angled her wand, Hermione could only kneel there speechlessly and wait for what she assumed was the Killing Curse. Dry-mouthed and gasping, she was tempted to shut her eyes, but she didn't, even when Bellatrix's lips began to part for the incantation. But she never managed to actually speak.

Like an eclipse, everything suddenly went dark, but it wasn't darkness at all. There was a body clothed in black robes blocking her sight of Bellatrix, standing between them like a strong, defiant wall. Craning her neck, Hermione tried to see who it was, realising first that her saviour was a woman. She thought it might be McGonagall, but she then noticed the blonde hair carefully confined in a neat bun that was only slightly tousled from today's events, and she knew it was Narcissa. Peeking out from behind Narcissa's robes, Hermione managed to catch the flicker of shock that crossed Bellatrix's warped features.

"Cissy, what are you doing?" she asked, sounding almost exasperated. "Get out of the way."


Bellatrix's eyebrows hitched up. "What do you mean, 'No'?"

"I'm not moving, Bella. You will not harm her."

"Why? Because your little darling Draco turned and found himself a Mudblood girlfriend? How fucking precious." She scoffed. "I always knew the boy was useless. Insolent, pathetic brat."

Narcissa took a daring step forward, her heel stamping hard against the floor. "Be very careful how you speak about my son, Bella," she spat through gritted teeth. "Very careful."

Bellatrix's mouth twitched with distaste. "Perhaps you should be careful about how you speak to me, Cissy."

Silence followed, and in that silence, tension crackled between the sisters like a wayward firework ready to explode. Tentatively, Hermione rose to her feet and met Bellatrix's dark, dilated eyes over Narcissa's shoulder. The Death Eater looked calmly crazed, like a stretched string on the verge of snapping, and, as futile as it was, Hermione toyed with Bellatrix's crooked wand, clenching it in her clammy palm, just in case. Something changed in Bellatrix's demeanour, and then she started laughing; a low, merciless chuckle that sounded like ripping silk.

"So that's how it is, Cissy?"

"It doesn't need to be, Bella," said Narcissa.

"Oh, I think it does." She widened her stance. "Last chance, little sister. Move."


A second later, Hermione was blinded by the shine of Narcissa's Shielding Charm. A formidable curse poured out of Bellatrix's wand trying to puncture the protection spell, and Hermione could see it cracking under the pressure. Narcissa groaned with exertion, but it was all for nothing; Bellatrix surged more power into her spell and struck her sister so hard that she was flung sideways, smacking her head against a wall and then crumpling to the ground.

With closed eyes and a small trickle blood seeping out of Narcissa's ear, Hermione assumed the worst and tried to run over to help, but she barely managed a step before Bellatrix fired a spell at her. It caught her arm and she yelped as the hot curse scorched the exposed skin just above her wrist, rousing a patch of painful blisters across the burned area.

"Stay where you are," said Bellatrix, licking her chapped her lips. "Let's continue, shall we?"

"What the hell is wrong with you?" blurted Hermione. "She's your sister!"

"I've learned not to trust my sisters."



Draco was sprinting through the Great Hall, ducking and dodging out of the way of several hexes and curses that threatened to knock him off course. Or worse. He'd seen Bellatrix knock out his mother and that was why he had started running, but now he could see his malicious aunt taunting Hermione and it made his legs move that much quicker. He had no idea what he intended to do once he reached them; he was hardly going to be able to reason with Bellatrix, but still, he ran. He ran so fast his legs felt detached from the rest of his body and his heart felt like it was where his Adam's apple should be.

Hermione's back was to him and he could see Bellatrix sneering coldly at her, twirling her wand mockingly. Raising Andromeda's wand, Draco was ready to hurl a spell, but Bellatrix spotted him before he could even utter a syllable of the incantation. She retaliated with a quick flick of her wand, and Draco felt ropes coil around his body so tight that he was certain she had bruised a few of his ribs.

"Draco!" he heard Hermione shout.

Like a caught fish, Bellatrix dragged him towards her across the uneven floor, bits of sharp stone slicing into his skin and snagging his clothes. His foot connected with a protruding brick and he felt something near his ankle rip; a muscle or a tendon. Either way, it was agony. When Bellatrix stopped hauling him forward, Hermione appeared and knelt as his side, frantically tearing at the ropes with her hands as she mumbled incantations under her breath that seemed to weaken their grip on his body.

"Don't struggle," she said. "It'll make them tighter."

He managed to grasp one of her trembling, busy hands. "Run, Granger."


"Run. I'll distract her."

Hermione squeezed his hand back and then released it so she could continue to rip away his restraints. "I'd rather run with you than walk alone."

"Granger, please," he groaned. "Just run. Run before she-

"Don't be foolish, Draco. She wouldn't make it two steps."

Bellatrix towered over them like a dark, dangerous thundercloud, grinning down at them with such an evil aura that Hermione couldn't suppress a shiver. She realised now that Bellatrix's black robes were damp with blood and there were red stains tucked underneath her fingernails. Hermione's mind raced, desperately trying to think of a way to escape. Bellatrix's wand was refusing to comply with any offensive spells aimed at its original owner and everyone around them was too busy combating other Death Eaters to offer any assistance. Glancing at Draco, she found his expression was so much calmer than hers, but his eyes were stormy with panic. She could tell by the bruise spreading out across his foot that he had hurt is ankle, so running was completely out of the question.

She reached for Draco's hand again, gave it a gentle pinch of reassurance, and then got to her feet, standing protectively in front of him.

"Aw," Bellatrix cooed. "How adorable. The disgusting Mud-bitch and my disappointing nephew." Her features hardened like ice. "Do you really think standing in front of him will make a difference? It just means I'll kill you first."

There was a rush of movement behind Hermione; Draco fired a curse, but Bellatrix blocked it and returned with a disarming spell that kicked Andromeda's wand out of his hand and sent it rolling in the same direction as Narcissa.

"Andromeda didn't defeat me with that wand thirty years ago," said Bellatrix. "Did you honestly believe for a split second that you would be able to?"

Draco glared at her. "I'm sure I speak for Andromeda and myself when I say fuck you."

Bellatrix ran her tongue across her chipped, jagged teeth and adjusted the position of her wand, aiming it intently at Hermione. "I'm bored of you both. Say goodbye to your girlfriend, Draco. But don't worry, you'll be joining her soon."

Hermione's eyes slammed shut . Behind her, she heard Draco scream NO at the top of his lungs so loud that she thought it must have risen above all the noise echoing around the Great Hall. She waited for something. A blow, or pain, or nothingness, but it never came. Instead she heard Bellatrix swear under her breath. Opening her eyes, she noticed the sleeve of Bellatrix's robes was singed and she had turned away, now looking over her shoulder at Ginny, who was on her feet with her wand still aimed and glowing with the residue of an Incendio.

"You vile smear of Weasley shit," growled Bellatrix quietly, outraged. She whipped her body around, drew back her wand with intent, and screamed, "Avada Kedavra!"

"GINNY!" shouted Hermione.

The Killing Curse missed her friend by a fraction of an inch, skimming past her shoulder and colliding with the floor. But before Hermione could even feel the faintest trace of relief, Bellatrix was readying herself for another go. But, from somewhere to Hermione's left, a voice bellowed out over the crowd, familiar and usually friendly, but now fierce and actually rather intimidating.


Molly Weasley charged towards them like a robust runaway train with flushed, shiny cheeks and a split lip. Hermione heard Draco mumble "Holy shit" behind her and she understood his sentiment. Never had she seen Molly look so furious. She was almost feral in appearance; a lioness protecting her cub and ready to tear off the limbs of anyone who dared to challenge her.

"Get out of the way, kids," she ordered, levelling up to Bellatrix. "You will not harm my family! Get back, kids!"

Bellatrix was chuckling again, cruelly and mockingly. Hermione took advantage of the distraction and turned to Draco, casting a hasty Ferula to bind his injured ankle and provide enough support for him to walk. Yanking at his shoulders, she practically dragged him to his feet and pulled him back a few yards, out of the range of Molly and Bellatrix. Ginny had also backed away and was now studying her mother with concern, evidently wanting to interfere despite her mother's demands that she didn't.

The two witches began to duel, streams of angry light jetted out of their wands like wildfire. They barraged each other with curses, but it was obvious from the offset that Bellatrix was the more skilled dueller. She avoided Molly's attacks with such ease, taunting her opponent between each curse she fired.

"Seven motherless children coming up!" she grinned coldly. "How will they cope without their dear, old, frumpy mummy?"

"You will stay away from my family!" retorted Molly.

But then she stumbled, and Bellatrix fired a quick spell to knock Molly to her knees. Chortling with triumph, she began the incantation for the Killing Curse — the final blow — and Ginny and Hermione both dashed forward to intervene. But they didn't need to. Someone else cast a spell to prevent the would-be murder.

Hermione looked around for the source until her eyes settled on Narcissa, who was now standing strong and clutching Andromeda's wand in her fist. The amusement slipped away from Bellatrix's face when she spotted her sister, and instead a callous, merciless expression stretched out across her features. Her dark eyes shifted to Andromeda's wand and her lips peeled back in a snarl.

"What do you intend to do with that, Cissy?"

"Don't you ever threaten my son," warned Narcissa. "Never piss off a mother."

"Or two," said Molly, who had quickly recovered and was back on her feet.

There was a pause, the calm before the storm. Narcissa fired the first spell, and what followed was a blur of activity and a flurry of flashing lights. No more taunts or chuckles spilled out of Bellatrix's mouth as the two mothers bombarded her with everything they had, hitting their marks. Hermione had never witnessed Narcissa in a duel and she was in awe of her skill. She had no idea why, but she had assumed Narcissa's flamboyant lifestyle in an elite family would have made her lazy, but she was almost as quick and adroit as her sister.

"Your mum's amazing," she said to Draco. "I had no idea."

"Neither did I."

Sweat dribbled from Bellatrix's forehead, and her look of contempt was now contorted with something that looked like terror. She knew what was coming: her defeat. It was just a matter of when. Hermione had no clue who cast the Killing Curse, but a spurt of the fatal green light struck Bellatrix directly in the chest.

Everything went still, including Bellatrix, and her eyes rolled back into her head before she slumped lifelessly to the ground with a blunt thump. The small crowd that had gathered to watch roared with success, and Molly and Narcissa dropped their wands, sharing a brief look of mutual understanding.

After Accio-ing back her own wand, Narcissa turned to Draco and Hermione and approached them slowly, panting with exhaustion but holding her posture proudly, though Hermione could see she was slightly nervous. That aching expression of need to hold her son — Hermione remembered that same expression from the Manor — was etched into Narcissa's face, but she didn't reach out and try to embrace him when she was close enough. She simply stood before him, staring at him like she thought she might have forgotten something about his appearance. Hermione could feel the same faint anxious energy coming from Draco. His hands fidgeted at his sides and his jaw was clenched with uncertainty about what to say.

Finally, Narcissa blurted, "I am so, so sorry, Draco."

His brow furrowed, confused. "What for?"

Her eyes strayed to Hermione for a moment, but quickly returned back to her son. "Everything."

Draco sighed deeply. "Mother, I-

A loud, ear-scratching scream cut him off, followed by a loud explosion. All the heads in the room seemed to suddenly dart towards something in the centre. Hermione turned just in time to see the blinding glare of Voldemort's blast as it tossed McGonagall, Slughorn, and Kingsley aside like ragdolls and kept spreading. Someone cast a huge Shielding Charm to protect everyone in the hall before the spell could reach its full ferocity, and then there was a prolonged period of silence.

A rumble of voices rippled across the room and then someone shouted, "HARRY! IT'S HARRY!"

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