Nighttime had descended upon them when Snape called out to the shadows behind the brick pillars of Platform 9 ¾. “Draco, come here!”
Harry’s breath caught in his throat as Malfoy stepped into the light. Wearing a thick black band around his arm to cover what Harry knew to be the Dark Mark, Malfoy looked thinner, his features not as hard as Harry remembered. Nonetheless, Harry kept a firm grip on his wand in the event that certain other aspects of Malfoy’s disposition had not changed.
“What are you doing here?” Harry exclaimed. Malfoy did not answer, but snickered malevolently.
“Malfoy has been tracking the Death Eaters for some time now; it seems his friendship with Crabbe and Goyle has not proven a complete waste since it has enabled him to keep abreast of their activities from a safe distance," said Snape, to which Malfoy scowled indignantly. "In any case, certain Death Eaters vying for the Malfoys' disgrace have watched me closely since intervening at the astronomy tower. Thus, I needed Draco to leak the whereabouts of the last Horcrux in a way Lupin would discover. It took a great deal of planning to arrange this meeting here tonight right under the Death Eaters’ noses.” Regarding Draco with deference, Snape added, “His assistance has been of great value to us both, Potter.” Malfoy puffed his chest out pompously.
“Brilliant. Stuffed-Shirt and Protégé. You make a great team,” scoffed Harry angrily, looking suspiciously from one to the other. Snape’s eyes flickered menacingly.
“Nice to see you too, Scarhead,” said Malfoy, his trademark sneer creeping back onto his face. “Honestly, the way things are about to become, I thought you’d be thrilled to see me.”
“I'm ecstatic, can't you tell?" he retorted sarcastically, bracing himself for more bad news. "Are you going to fill me in or do I need to hex you?"
Malfoy cleared his throat and walked over to the brick passage between Platform 9 ¾ and King’s Cross Station. Eyes fixed on the pillar, Malfoy answered him. “The Death Eaters are planning a full-scale invasion of London tomorrow morning."
"What?" Harry cried. "How?"
"They're infiltrating the city by boarding the trains. The attacks are supposed to happen right out on the streets, and from what I’ve heard of their 'no-survivor' policy, no Muggle or Mudblood will be safe,” he remarked coolly, a hint of mirth in his voice. “Seeing how much the Dark Lord’s following has grown, I wouldn’t be surprised if they wipe out everything from here to Heathrow and back in time for tea.”
Harry was glad Malfoy’s gaze was momentarily directed elsewhere. As he thought of Hermione’s family, the Dursleys, every Muggle-born he ever knew and every unknowing civilian sharing their last night of blissful ignorance to the Magical World, Harry felt the last ounce of blood drain from his face.
"No-survivor policy," he whispered, horrified.
Placing a thin, knobby hand on the brick entrance, Malfoy continued. “Voldemort and his inner circle will be meeting on the other side of the gateway within the hour to iron out the particulars. After that, Dementors will take to the skies, the Inferi will infest the Underground, and then, well... let’s just say the fate of all Mudblood-kind rests on Saint Potty,” Malfoy snorted. Turning to face Harry, Malfoy’s face was a mixture of anxiety and amusement. “I can't wait 'til everyone finds out their favorite celebrity is a fake.”
“You’d know all about being a fake, wouldn’t you? Tell me, how’s your friend, Greyback, these days? You two started your own club of bloodthirsty miscreants yet?” Harry snapped indignantly. Stung, Malfoy angrily threw up his wand to hex him, before Snape quickly stepped between them.
“Enough, both of you!” Snape shouted impatiently before rounding on Harry. “You’ll do well to listen to Malfoy, Potter. Foolish pride won’t save you in the final battle!”
Harry glared back, outraged. “Listen to Malfoy? Not twelve months ago he was aiming his wand at Dumbledore to kill him!”
“What do you know about it?” Malfoy spat. “When was the last time Voldemort told you he’d kill someone that mattered to you unless you finished off a really powerful wizard?”
Harry blinked. “You cannot seriously be asking me that question,” he replied in a deadpan voice.
“If your ego hasn't kept you sufficiently distracted these last twelve months, I'm sure by now you know the Malfoys have fallen out of favor with Voldemort,” Snape declared brusquely.
"I've heard as much," Harry replied, biting back a string of insults. "The Daily Prophet had them for murdered, but I’ll believe that when I see it. Why?"
“Lord Voldemort wished to make an example of Malfoy for his failure at the Astronomy Tower, to show his Death Eaters he would not tolerate those who would dare shirk their responsibilities in the face of fear. Once Bellatrix made an attempt on Draco's life on Voldemort's orders, the Malfoys soon understood they were incompatible with the Dark Lord’s practices. To Voldemort's discontent, they resisted," he explained.
Harry caught sight of Malfoy's grim expression and instantly recalled the news article regarding the mysterious disappearance of the Malfoy family. It was generally understood now that terrible things befell those wizards who spontaneously disappeared from the Wizarding World, and Harry suddenly felt an unwelcome pang of pity for his platinum-haired arch nemesis.
"Voldemort sure has a knack for breaking up families, doesn't he?" Harry remarked morosely.
"Either way, you need only concern yourself with the fact that Malfoy is working against Lord Voldemort now.”
“Fine. So what is this brilliant plan that you conspired to bring me here for?” Harry demanded. “The way I see it, I must be barking mad for listening to either of you...”
The corners of Snape’s mouth curled into a wry grin. “Draco will bring you to Voldemort as an offering to restore his family’s reputation in the Dark Lord’s inner circle. They cannot discover your alliance, so we must contrive to make it look as convincing as possible that you were brought by force. Draco brought the rope,” he added with an unconcealed snicker. “Lucius and Narcissa will be-“
"Lucius and Narcissa? So, they are alive!” Harry interrupted.
“Suffice it to say I have kept them well hidden,” replied Snape.
“And that is all you need to know!” he interjected before starting over. “Lucius and Narcissa will be in attendance and once Voldemort has granted clemency to the Malfoys, they will spring an attack on the Death Eaters-”
“Hang on.... Spring an attack? You can’t expect the Malfoys to stand up against all those Death Eaters alone! There has to be over a hundred of them now, at least!” For once, Malfoy, who looked about as pleased at this plan as Harry did, spluttered in agreement.
“Interrupt me one more time and I shall hex your mouth shut!” Snape barked. “The Malfoys will not be alone! You have time before Draco brings you to Voldemort, during which I will be gathering reinforcements and you shall be readying yourself! Is that clear?”
Harry just stared at him. He had never before heard a scheme so ill conceived since that time Hermione had convinced him and Ron to take the Polyjuice Potion to turn into Crabbe and Goyle over five years ago. “Next you’ll be telling me I should hand my wand over to the Death Eaters for safekeeping,” Harry muttered wearily, passing a hand over his perspiring face.
"Speaking of which..." Snape gingerly climbed down to the platform and took up his wand. “By now you know that your wand is useless against Lord Voldemort. His wand shares the same core as your own. You may fight against him with it, surely, but you cannot kill him with it.”
"Well, yes, but..." Just then, Harry's blood turned to ice in his veins. "This is it, then, isn't it? I'm to destroy Voldemort tonight...?"
"Once their plot is set in motion, you'll not have another opportunity," Snape said dismissively.
“How am I supposed to ‘ready myself’, then? A bit of his soul is in me! I can't, there's no time-”
“Practice this incantation,” Snape said hastily, stuffing an old and wrinkled bit of parchment into Harry’s hand. Upon it was written a spell: evocare cultoris, iudicare mortalis. It did not look like Snape’s handwriting. What was he supposed to do? Harry thought, staring blankly at the paper. Just say it? Wouldn’t he need his wand for this?
Harry felt a breeze as Draco rushed past him. “Hey, you’re not leaving now, are you?” Malfoy called out as Snape began to walk away.
Harry’s head sprung up from the parchment in alarm. “Wait, you haven’t told me how to use this spell! What is it even supposed to do?” Harry began to feel desperate. Every notion he had about what his last face-off with Voldemort would be like had completely disintegrated in hardly any time at all. How he was going to destroy Voldemort as well as the Horcrux within himself seemed an utterly implausible act, and for the very first time, Harry wished Snape wasn’t leaving him alone.
Snape walked to the platform’s edge and thrust his wand in the air. “Surely The Chosen One could figure it out,” Snape replied with a mocking smirk. And with that, a great burst of green light sprang from the tip of Snape’s wand, launching swirling iridescent smoke into the night sky. It took the shape of a large skull with a snake protruding from its gaping mouth. Snape had lit the Dark Mark over Kings Cross Station.
“What are you doing!?” Harry and Malfoy shouted in unison.
He shot them both a greasy smile. “Calling for reinforcements.” And with a great CRACK, Snape disappeared.
Harry could barely believe what just happened, and he stared up at the Dark Mark, dumbfounded and horrified.
Malfoy, on the other hand, looked fit to burst into tears.
“WHOSE BLOODY SIDE ARE YOU ON?” Malfoy yelled at the empty spot where Snape had vanished. “The filthy brute set us up! We have to get out of here… We’re going to die!” Malfoy’s composure was rapidly crumbling, and Harry had no patience for it.
“Get a grip,” Harry said angrily, grabbing Malfoy by the shirt and spinning him around to face him. “We’re not dead yet, are we? We have to think of a plan!”
He flung Harry’s hands off him. “We’re as good as dead, you stupid arse! Know what he conveniently left out, Potter? That he made my parents make an Unbreakable Vow to attack the Death Eaters tonight – he told them it was the least they could do for him since he’d helped me that night at the Astronomy Tower!” Harry looked at him in a stupor as Malfoy’s eyes darted around the platform like it was a bomb about to explode. “The Dark Mark will bring every Death Eater in the country right here! We’re all done for!”
Just then, Harry ran to his knapsack, tore open the flap, and dumped the contents onto the floor. Malfoy looked at Harry as though a Flobberworm had just dropped out of the sky and landed on his head. “What are you doing?”
Harry produced several items from the pile on the floor. He stuffed something small, squirmy and horn-shaped into Malfoy’s hand and tossed a heavy robe over his shoulder. “Take these,” said Harry. “At the very least they might buy us some time if we need it.”
The small horn-shaped object tried to leap out of Malfoy’s hand. “What is this rubbish, anyway?” he asked suspiciously.
Harry continued to rummage through the pile. “That there is a Decoy Detonator. When you need a diversion, you just drop it and it’ll scurry off somewhere unseen and make a loud bang,” he explained hastily. “The other is a Shield Cloak. It protects against most minor jinxes and hexes. It’s worth a shot even though they don’t work against the Unforgivable Curses. I picked them up at Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes.”
With a loud snort, Malfoy turned up his nose at the items and pushed them back at Harry. “I don’t need help from any Weasles, thanks,” asserted Malfoy arrogantly, "and especially not from you."
Harry sprang to his feet and refused the cloak. “Is that so? Didn’t stop you from using their Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder the night you snuck in your Death Eater mates, did it?” Harry snapped furiously. “My mistake. Maybe you’d like to go in there and face Voldemort by yourself then! Or would you rather watch your parents die? I was only a baby when he murdered mine - I can only imagine how it would be to lose them at seventeen!”
Their eyes locked in anger, Malfoy opened his mouth to yell at Harry but found he had no cruel words to impart. Instead, he grudgingly threw on the shield cloak and stuffed the Decoy Detonator in his pocket. After several moments watching Harry throw on his own Shield cloak and arming himself with various tricks from Fred’s and George’s shop, Malfoy finally spoke. “So what are we going to do now, genius?” he muttered.
“Your parents made an Unbreakable Vow. We’ve got no choice but to stick with Snape’s plan,” Harry replied. Having Malfoy scared out of his wits seemed to help Harry focus. “Since I’m what Voldemort’s after, maybe I can distract him. It may give your family a chance to escape.”
“How are you going to do that?” asked Malfoy.
Harry slipped his wand into his cloak. “I don’t actually know,” he muttered.
“What about you, then? You won’t get out,” Malfoy remarked with a furrowed brow.
Pausing, Harry turned back to meet Malfoy’s inquisitive gaze. “I’m not meant to escape," he began slowly. “I suppose it had to end sometime and, seeing as seven million people might die tomorrow, tonight's as good a night as any.”
Without warning, Malfoy and Harry both jumped as they heard a loud noise and screams coming from the other side of the gateway to Platform 9 ¾. Death Eaters were arriving.
“Blood Hell…. Quick, Malfoy! What did Snape tell you to do? If I’m supposed to be tied up, best to get it over with!” He shoved a last packet of Instant Darkness Powder into his pocket.
Malfoy ran and grabbed a line of rope from a spot beside the pillar where he had been hiding. Harry placed his hands behind his back for Malfoy to bind them. “No funny business,” Harry muttered. Malfoy shot him a nasty glare from behind. “Just because you’re on the right side now doesn’t mean I trust you any farther than I can throw you.”
Malfoy tightened the rope around Harry’s wrists. “Then why are you helping me?”
Harry glanced over his shoulder and mumbled, “Dumbledore would have wanted me to.”
Harry thought he heard a soft shuffle behind him when another loud crash came from the entrance. His eyes flew to the large clock that hung above his head. “When are your Mum and Dad coming?” Harry asked hurriedly.
Malfoy gulped, his eyes raised to the clock. “Midnight.” Sure enough, the clock read five minutes to the hour.
They looked at each other and Malfoy’s face, awash in the green light of the Dark Mark, looked sickly. “This is it, Malfoy. We’re going through the entrance and you’re going to go along with Snape’s plan as though nothing has changed. When I give the signal, drop the decoy and undo the rope,” he explained. Malfoy jerked his head in reluctant concordance. “And don’t forget your Occlumency. We don’t want to give anything away!”
"Hey, I'm not the one with the Occlumency probl-"
"Oh, just shut it, will you!"
Harry turned on his heel and Malfoy grabbed him by the shoulder, gruffly pushing him forward through the gateway to the muggle station. He felt the point of Malfoy’s wand jab uncomfortably into his back. As Platform 9 ¾ disappeared behind him, Harry thought miserably to himself, I must be out of my bleeding mind.