Discretion is advised. Violence and adult themes ahead.
The scene was grim. Bodies of Metropolitan police officers and security guards lay strewn about the tracks and platforms of King's Cross Station, expressions of shock and fear etched onto their ashen faces. The sight seemed to affect Malfoy as it did Harry; the wand at Harry’s back trembled between his shoulder blades. The trains had apparently been jinxed to stop running, leaving the station virtually empty for the Death Eaters’ use save for one train that stood darkened and idle behind them, and the walls and floors glowed a sickening green. On the opposite end, a cluster of hooded figures cornered a last remaining policeman. Harry could hear him pleading for his life before a great green flash of light and then silence.
The Death Eaters roared with malicious laughter.
Behind Harry, Malfoy was as still as a statue. Shooting a glance over his shoulder to make sure he was still there, Harry tried to prompt him with his eyes, but to no avail. It wasn’t until the arrival of Lucius and Narcissa that Malfoy seemed to awaken from his petrified stupor.
They appeared with a great CRACK in front of Harry and Draco, causing the Death Eaters to spin around in alarm. In the group, Harry recognized many familiar faces. Greyback, the Lestranges, Nott, Avery, Macnair, Crabbe, and Goyle, among others Harry had seen before were all in attendance, but there were also many strangers. Voldemort certainly had garnered more support since Dumbledore’s death, it seemed. There was now a group of forty and every passing moment brought more onto the scene, making their entrance with the obligatory POP and CRACK. As the group advanced towards Harry and the Malfoys, Harry saw that Voldemort had not yet joined them. Wormtail was also nowhere to be seen.
Bellatrix Lestrange was the first to speak. “Narcissa? Lucius? I don't believe my eyes,” she whispered. “I thought you were dead!”
“Deserters!” someone hissed.
“Blood traitors!” shouted another.
Lucius put up a hand and waved them silent. He stepped forward, oozing arrogance, and said calmly, “do not mistake my absence for desertion. My secrecy has led to a most valuable acquisition.” Lucius stepped aside as Malfoy shoved Harry into the Death Eaters’ view. “A gift for the Dark Lord,” he added with a crooked smile, and for a moment Harry worried that, Unbreakable Vow or no, Lucius wouldn’t mind handing Harry over to meet his end.
There were whispers and murmurs, and Harry heard his name uttered contemptuously by various members of the hooded lot. Many looked uncertain and even afraid at Harry’s presence. Greyback, however, eyed him hungrily, running his tongue over his yellow teeth in a way that made Harry’s stomach turn.
Bellatrix eyed Lucius suspiciously. “I’d be interested to hear exactly how you managed to capture the ever-elusive Mr. Potter,” she sneered. “In the past, he’s been rather… slippery.” Harry forced his eyes to the ground as Bellatrix’s gaze drilled into him.
Narcissa put a hand on Draco’s shoulder. “My son deserves the credit,” she replied, raising her head proudly. “Would you expect any less from the one who orchestrated Dumbledore’s demise?”
Harry winced. His scar had begun to burn.
“Draco lost his nerve at the Astronomy tower! I was there! Snape had to do the deed,” Greyback snarled.
Lucius coolly stepped to Draco’s other side. “Surely you must admit - the unforgivable curses are difficult to execute if one is inexperienced, and Draco was only sixteen.”
With every word, their voices seemed to blur in Harry's ears. The pain in his forehead was fast becoming unbearable.
“We shall leave judgement of Draco’s competence to the Dark Lord when he arrives,” Macnair offered coldly. All seemed to be in agreement.
They would not have to wait long. The white-hot pain in Harry’s forehead was now blinding him and, forcing his eyes into focus, Harry made out a pair of blood red eyes glowing in the darkness behind the Death Eaters. Lord Voldemort emerged from the shadows, his face as monstrous and deformed as ever it was, and the Death Eaters slinked away to let him through. Harry steeled himself for whatever was to come.
“What do we have here?” Voldemort hissed darkly. “Surely it cannot be the Malfoys, back from the dead… and Harry Potter?” The Dark Lord’s mouth curled into a vicious smile. “This is a special occasion indeed!”
At this, Draco came forward, pushing Harry ahead of him. “M-my parents and I…have brought you Harry Potter… as an offering to…” Malfoy’s voice faded.
“Yes?” Voldemort coaxed.
“An offering to ask for your pardon and to return amongst the Death Eaters,” Malfoy spat out.
Voldemort turned his gaze on Harry, seeming to consider Malfoy’s supplication. “Harry Potter… an offering,” he murmured, “or an ally?”
Harry’s face screwed up against the throbbing in this forehead. He could not think – he could not reason – he hoped beyond all hope that the Malfoys would not waver in their performance. Harry’s one small relief was that Voldemort could not read his mind – the pain had emptied his brain of virtually every coherent thought.
“Certainly not an ally! That you could think that we would ever betray you in such a way,” Lucius interjected fiercely. “Harry Potter is an arrogant and talentless fool. The boy has deluded himself into thinking he can defeat you, the greatest wizard that ever lived! We have brought him here that he might discover the power of the Dark Lord first hand, as you wished,” he stated fervently.
Voldemort vanished and reappeared with a *pop* onto their platform. He approached Lucius threateningly, his red eyes flickering brightly against the green tinge of his face. “Arrogant, yes,” Voldemort agreed. “But talentless? No.” He reached out a hand and stretched his serpentine fingers towards Harry’s face. “What talent he possesses, he has borrowed from me,” he sneered, tracing a finger down Harry’s cheek, and Harry could barely stifle the scream of agony that seemed to spring from his scar at Voldemort’s touch. Clinging feebly to consciousness, he sank to the ground.
The sight of Harry’s suffering brought a smile to the Dark Lord’s lips. He turned on Malfoy. “If he is not an ally, prove it,” he said lightly, stepping away from Harry’s crumpled figure. “Torture him.”
After a brief pause, Lucius stepped forward. “Stand aside, Draco-“
“No,” interrupted Voldemort. “Draco will do it. He has yet to express the qualities I seek in my faithful followers. If he is to become a Death Eater, he must prove himself.” A rumble of assent issued from the Death Eaters. Harry thought he saw a flash of panic cross Lucius’ face as Draco stepped forward and took out his wand.
Suddenly, Harry’s heart retreated into his stomach. Not only was Draco hesitating – he looked like he didn’t want to do it! No, thought Harry vehemently at him, you must! We’ll be discovered if you don’t!
As though Draco could hear Harry’s thoughts, his agitated expression was replaced with one of deep loathing. Malfoy raised his wand at Harry and spoke forcefully.
This time, Harry did scream. His blood turned to acid in his veins and he shook from the waves of agony splintering his muscles and radiating into his bones. Unseen knives pierced his skin as though a great thorny beast were clawing its way out from deep inside him. He fought against the voice in his head that prayed for his death. Soon, this will all be over, thought Harry bitterly over the sound of his own howls. Soon…
Merely a minute later, though it had felt much longer, Harry felt Malfoy lift the curse. His body throbbed, and he drew in frantic breaths to quell the high-pitched buzzing in his ears and white spots flashing in his eyes. His mind feebly raced for remnants of the plan he made with Malfoy. It still wasn’t the right time; Death Eaters were crossing the tracks to get a better look. Wearily raising his eyes to Voldemort's expressionless face, Harry thought Malfoy’s curse might not be enough to satisfy the Dark Lord’s conditions, and he braced himself for a second attack.
To his great surprise, Voldemort raised a hand to stop Draco from cursing Harry a second time. “That was strong, indeed,” murmured Voldemort. “You’ve come a long way, Draco.” Malfoy expelled a gust of air and straightened himself as Voldemort turned away from them.
“Thank you, master.”
Narcissa looked expectantly at Voldemort. “Then we have earned your pardon? We want only to restore your faith in us.” She bowed elegantly, her shimmery hair dipping over her face.
Voldemort grinned bemusedly at Narcissa’s ceremony. But then, as though someone somewhere inside had flipped a switch, Harry saw his face change – the gleam in his eye was replaced with a hollow void and his smile twisted into a snarl.
“I’m afraid not,” Voldemort said, his voice suddenly ferocious.
“But… but, Draco has proven himself!” Lucius sounded scared. “Harry Potter would not be here if not for our undaunted fealty-“
“You see, there is the small matter of a fifth party Wormtail found on the other side of the gateway to platform 9 ¾.”
Harry joined the Malfoys in their utter confusion. Fifth party? He couldn’t be talking about Snape, Harry thought anxiously to himself. Voldemort looked beyond where the Malfoys stood confounded and called out, “Wormtail! Bring the girl!”
Peter Pettigrew appeared through the gateway and kicking furiously in his arms was a small person with unmistakably ginger hair. Harry felt his heart implode in his chest. It was Ginny.
He thought he would die on the spot. Incredibly, the nightmarish scenario that Harry had sacrificed everything to avoid was unfolding before him. How Voldemort had discovered them and captured her, he could not explain, but it did not matter now. Voldemort had the upper hand at last. Ginny, the person most precious to him, had been relegated to a bargaining chip, and for the first time since crossing the threshold into Kings Cross Station, Harry found his voice. “Leave her alone!” he yelled in desperation.
Looking more haggard and worn than ever, Wormtail dragged Ginny to Harry’s side and threw her onto her knees beside him. To his surprise, Harry did not read fear in Ginny’s face; rather, he saw a defiant urgency. “Harry, don’t listen to them… I didn’t-”
“Silence her,” Voldemort commanded Wormtail, eyeing her with contempt.
Pettigrew grabbed a tuft of her long hair, snapped her head back and, to Harry’s horror, raised his silver hand. With a swift blow to her face, Wormtail knocked her to the ground, her body hitting the concrete with a hard thud.
The sight was more than he could bear. Ginny's gasp as she struck the cement resounding in his ears, Harry felt as though he had received a mortal wound. The impact rendered her unconscious, and a dark, slick substance trickled from the corner of her mouth.
Harry's eyes grew moist against a pain worse than a hundred Cruciatus curses.
“Please,” he groaned. “Spare her… I’ll do anything…”
“Harry, Harry, Harry… I thought we might have to endure some manner of half-baked heroics from you tonight. But begging? That I didn’t expect,” Voldemort jeered.
Harry struggled weakly against his bonds. “She’s not the one you want…”
“Wait…” Just then, realization seemed to sweep over Voldemort’s bestial face. “I thought I recognized her. Even in the Department of Mysteries, I thought I knew her face,” he whispered. Standing over Ginny’s crumpled form, his face was triumphant. “You’re that foolish little imp who took my diary,” he said, giving a sidelong glance to Lucius. “Well…” he added smoothly, bending down and raking his fingers through her hair, “perhaps you’re not so little anymore…”
“DON’T TOUCH HER!!” Harry roared with a force that tore at his vocal cords.
Voldemort raised his head to meet Harry’s glare. Were it not for his desperate fury, Harry would have quaked at the sight of Voldemort’s nefarious grin; his expression betrayed dangerous thoughts lurking behind his blood-red eyes. As a matter of fact, he looked positively gleeful.
It wasn’t a good sign.
“I’ve made an error, it seems, in believing Harry brought the girl here tonight,” Voldemort said loudly. He hovered over Harry victoriously. “I daresay she was quite transfixed by you five years ago, I can only imagine she never gave up. Tell me, Harry. How long have you cared for the young Miss Weasley?”
“Lucius, Narcissa, you are to be congratulated. And here I thought you had brought a spy!”
No, no, please, no… I’ve just given us away…
“Harry, why, you look positively ghastly,” Voldemort chided. “You mean, you did not want your girlfriend here to share in your last moments?”
“She’s nothing to me,” Harry lied, but the damage was already done.
“Surely you did not intend to place your beloved in mortal danger,” Voldemort scoffed mockingly to Harry, retrieving his wand from the folds of his robe. “Of course, she’ll not have been the first to die for love of Harry Potter. Freckles and red hair… the resemblance to your mother is uncanny." The Death Eaters all snickered harmoniously.
As he spoke, Harry suddenly fixed his gaze on an image beyond Voldemort, and he could barely believe his eyes. On the pedestrian bridge, the silhouettes of other cloaked figures emerged, making their way across the walkway clandestinely – one with distinctly bushy hair.
He could not have seen a more welcome sight. Harry knew he would have to act quickly.
“I’m curious to know which of you shall be the first to beg for death,” Voldemort snarled, raising his wand in the air to strike Ginny.
“Wait! Answer me one question first!” Harry shouted, forcing himself to focus despite the throbbing pain in his scar.
Voldemort looked taken off guard by Harry’s nerve, but his surprise slowly registered as amusement. “Shall we make it a game then? By all means, ask your question,” he replied sportingly.
Question, question… what’s my question??
“What about the prophecy?” Harry yelled, fearing he might have just brought up the wrong thing. “I thought you’d be curious to know what it said!”
This piqued the Dark Lord’s attention. “The prophecy was destroyed in the Department of Mysteries,” he said, focusing his penetrating gaze on Harry.
“I-I know,” Harry said, his breath hitching as he struggled to maintain his concentration. He spoke halfway over his shoulder to where Malfoy stood, petrified. “It wasn’t my intention to drop it,” he added, placing extra emphasis on the last two words.
“I know what you’re trying to do and it won’t work,” Voldemort remarked dryly. “Everyone here knows it was impossible for anyone to have heard it.”
“But I know who heard it first!” Harry said quickly. “Dumbledore witnessed the prophecy as it was being made… It’s too bad you had Dumbledore killed; he was the only other person who knew what was said… besides me!” If there was any question whether he had Voldemort’s undivided attention before, he certainly had it now. Praying that Malfoy was listening, he added, “It’s rather important… I didn’t think you’d’ve found it so easy to just let--it--go!”
“If I were you, I’d practically be exploding with curiosity…”
…Drop the decoy detonator!
“…But perhaps now isn’t the right time to drop the bomb!”
Voldemort looked murderous. He took Harry by his neck and roughly lifted him to his feet until his toes were barely touching the floor. Harry was in danger of losing his mind from the agony in his forehead, and glancing quickly to his right at the pedestrian bridge, he saw that the cloaked figures were no longer there. But then, just as his reserve of hope was almost empty, Harry felt the cord around his wrists fall limply into his open palms. Malfoy had gotten the message!
“You will tell me what that prophecy says or I will kill the girl!” Voldemort bellowed, his wand pressing painfully against Harry's throat.
In a moment of blessed clarity, Harry stared defiantly into Voldemort’s hideous face.
“It says you go out with a bang.”
The next instant, a deafening blast came from the far end of the track to Harry’s left, rattling the walls and shaking the ground beneath their feet. The Death Eaters all spun around in alarm leaving Voldemort’s attention sufficiently averted for Harry to twist himself out of his grasp. Before Voldemort had time to register Harry’s escape, he saw red light spray up Macnair’s back, causing him to collapse face-forward. The Death Eaters were under attack.
Harry leapt out of the way as Lucius Malfoy whipped out his wand. “Stupefy!” he shouted and Rookwood fell. There was only a moment of confusion before the Death Eaters readied themselves against the assault and threw up their wands against Lucius; Narcissa grabbed Malfoy by the collar and ran towards the platform’s edge, out of sight. Suddenly, Lupin rushed into view and single-handedly took down Rodolphus and Avery in two quick bursts of red light, as about twenty-five Aurors burst onto the scene, the Order of the Pheonix among them, wands swishing wildly. Without a moment's hesitation, Harry whipped out the invisibility cloak, leapt on top of Ginny’s body and threw it over them.
Voldemort roared Harry’s name in consternation.
Beneath the cloak, Harry held his breath as Tonks dueled furiously with Nott about a foot away, successfully disarming him in time to send her fist crashing into his face. Nott stumbled over Harry’s unseen foot and hit the platform so hard his blood sprayed onto Harry’s cloak, at which point Harry decided he better get out of the way fast. He lifted Ginny into his arms with the cloak still draped over them, and carried her behind a pillar. She stirred as he gently laid her against the brick surface, a deep red welt growing on the left side of her nose.
Peeking behind the pillar, Harry watched the entire platform explode into action as jets of light flew past his nose and the whoosh and crackle of spells filled the air. Suddenly, his heart splashed into his stomach; the Aurors were outnumbered roughly two to one. He counted several times hoping more Aurors would apparate to balance the score, but it became clear that everyone who was going to show up was already there. As skilled as the Aurors were against Dark Magic, he knew they would never stand up against fifty Death Eaters for long. Even more worrisome was the fact that he was sure he’d seen Hermione up on the pedestrian bridge as well, but she was now nowhere to be found.
To Harry’s tremendous relief, a familiar voice rose above the noise with a great “EXPELLIARMUS!” Rushing to the other side of the pillar, he watched as Ron intercepted a curse directed at Hermione, and pulled her roughly by the arm towards the spot where Harry and Ginny were hid. One of the Death Eaters Harry did not recognize caught sight of Ron and Hermione’s retreat, aiming his wand at Ron’s back. Harry poked his hand out.
“Protego!” he yelled, but to his utter dismay, the Death Eater’s deflected curse went flying into Kingsley Shacklebolt instead, whose body went rigid and promptly toppled over.
Ron’s head whipped around as he tried to find the source of the shielding charm. “Harry, that you? Where the hell are you?” he shouted.
Harry’s disembodied hand reached out, grabbed a handful of Ron’s cloak and yanked him behind the pillar. Hermione dove behind after him, a gust of violet light whizzing past her and slamming into the track.
“Quick, get down!” Harry said, lifting up the cloak like a curtain for them to hide under. The color ran from Ron’s face as Ginny was revealed.
“Ginny!” Ron and Hermione gasped in unison, throwing the cloak over their heads. Revived, Ginny squinted against the green light filtering in through the cloak’s translucent fabric, and held up a hand to Ron and Hermione’s fussing.
“All right, all right, I know,” she shouted over the noise, rubbing her temple, "following Harry wasn’t the smartest thing I’ve ever done. Now, I could be wrong, but sitting under here with our feet sticking out won’t hide us for long. Suppose we could move this somewhere else?” she suggested urgently, motioning to the darkened train parked across the track.
“Ginny, Ron, you two go under the cloak. You’ve never ridden the muggle train, so I don’t want to risk you apparating onto one tonight. Hermione and I will apparate on board,” Harry yelled.
Hermione peaked behind the pillar to evaluate the situation. “Everyone seems to be fighting on the other platforms now,” she observed. “We’d better do it fast.”
“Wait… where’s You-Kn-- Voldemort?” Ron stammered, sticking his head out.
In the excitement, Harry failed to notice that his scar had momentarily stopped throbbing. That definitely did not bode well. Voldemort wouldn’t just pick up and leave during a battle where his Death Eaters had the clear advantage. “Nevermind it right now,” Harry shouted. “Get a move on!”
The cloak slipped off of Harry and Hermione, and he heard Ron and Ginny’s footsteps tramp away. Several floating dots of Nott’s blood bounced over to the train door, which slid opened for an instant and snapped shut.
“Go on ahead, Hermione. I just want to get a better look,” Harry said.
She looked strikingly like Mrs. Weasley did whenever she admonished Fred and George for doing something stupid. “You’d better be right behind me, Harry!” she ordered, and with a POP, Hermione vanished.
Alone again, Harry felt more fearful than ever before. Looking first at the train and then at the Order as they bravely fought against a battalion of Death Eaters, Harry spoke aloud the cruel truth that tore at his conscience.
"We're all in mortal danger now."