Trapped like rats.
Harry struggled for a thought less harrowing, but it was the only phrase that came to mind as he stood listening to the Death Eaters fighting off the Inferi in suffocating darkness. Blind though he was himself, Harry could not close his ears to the screaming, and the sounds of ripping and tearing sent an electric current through his body. He fumbled for his wand.
“Lumos!” he thought with all his might, but as he had feared, his wand could not light. The blackness was as oppressive as the Inferi’s stench – utterly inescapable and so thick that Harry fought to keep from choking as he imagined it traveling down his throat and filling him with shadow. He simply had not realized how potent Instant Darkness actually was, and he found himself suddenly rattled and claustrophobic as though he were back in the cupboard under the stairs at Privet Drive hiding from Dudley.
“Incendium!” he shouted desperately.
Harry felt a hand feel its way to his wrist to lower his wand. “It’s not going to work,” said Ginny in a quivering voice beside him. “Nothing can penetrate the darkness until the powder wears off!”
“Right, ‘cause things weren’t complicated enough,” muttered Harry as he stowed his wand and tried to find the tunnel wall with his foot. “Hermione, we could sure use another brilliant idea right about now…”
“Harry… I-I think we need to get Hermione out of here,” Ron interjected. He sounded frightened, and with good cause. Hermione had become unnaturally quiet, her breathing came fast and hard, and memories came hurtling back to Harry of the cave and their battle with Nagini. None of them would ever forget their last experience with the Inferi when their trio was almost reduced to two. It was the night they almost lost Hermione.
“Easy, Hermione,” Harry tried to say soothingly, “you’ll make yourself faint.”
“No,” came Hermione’s breathy voice. “I-I’m fine…”
Before Harry could respond, Hagrid’s voice boomed through the pileup behind them. “Harry! Are yeh all right down there?”
“Hagrid, we’re okay, but you need to clear away the rubble!” yelled Harry urgently. “Hurry!
“Why don’t we just apparate out?” asked Ron incredulously.
Harry paused. “Because it’s not a matter of getting out.” His thoughts returning to his earlier conference with Malfoy, Harry knew that the Inferi would travel quickly throughout the Underground network unless something was done to prevent it. Before them, the Death Eaters were fighting a losing battle, and as empty as Harry felt to think it, they were at least buying them time, albeit not much. “Unless we stop them, the Inferi will spread through the tunnels,” said Harry resolutely. “If Hagrid can break through the rubble, maybe I can clear some of the powder out.”
“Are you seriously suggesting that we stick around and fight and Inferi army?!” cried Ron. “We can’t even see them!”
“I didn’t ask you to ‘stick around’!”
There was another howl; it sounded close. Harry heard someone slump to the ground and didn’t need to guess who it was.
“Ron, get Hermione out of here and help Hagrid clear the stairs!” he ordered. “I’ll stay and try to do the same from this end, okay?”
“Oh, bloody, bloody hell,” muttered Ron to himself. There was some shuffling and a low grunt from Ron as though he were hoisting something heavy onto his back. “Up we go,” he said shakily to Hermione before his voice turned in Harry’s direction. “We’ll get through as fast as we can, Harry!”
Just then, Harry felt something slide against the toe of his shoe and realized he was standing precariously close to the edge of the landing. The Inferi were just below them now.
“Just go!” he cried, jumping back towards the wall.
There was a loud CRACK, and Harry knew that Ron and Hermione had left him. He had almost forgotten that he wasn’t quite alone yet when he heard another pair of feet shuffling nervously beside him.
“Ginny, you too!” he called out.
“No!” she yelled. “Someone has to stay!”
“Hermione’s passed out and Ron’s helping Hagrid – you’d be more useful if you go and see if there’s anything up there we can use against the Inferi!”
“Weren’t you the one who said we should never abandon our partner?” she snapped. “We’ll all be plenty useless if you die down here because you had to play hero all by yourself!”
Despite a strong impulse to Side-Along Apparate Ginny out against her will, Harry knew better than to test her stubborn constitution. Gritting his teeth, he muttered, “Fine! Then, help me!” He found her hand and pulled her along the wall to the debris-laden stairs and together they tacked the wreckage, blindly yanking at the slabs of ceiling with all their might.
As the sounds of struggle behind them slowly faded, it occurred to Harry that the Death Eaters were already either dead or dying, and he forced from his mind the hollow fear of what would happen once there were no more Death Eaters for the Inferi to prey upon. In that moment, as they grappled with hunks of plaster and steel, their palms growing raw as they moved over sharp ruins, Harry longed to see Ginny’s face. Perhaps then he could share in that bottomless wellspring of bravery she seemed to carry with her at all times. If only he could look at her…
“What the-?” Suddenly, Harry felt something frigid and slimy travel up his ankle. His skin crawling, Harry violently kicked his foot out, wrenching it free from the voracious fingers. “Ginny, they’re climbing up onto the landing!” he shouted, and cast several curses blindly into the space behind them.
“HARRY!” she screamed, and he felt her hand seize his shoulder and jerk him roughly back towards the tracks. His arm bruising beneath Ginny’s painful grip, Harry knew one of the Inferi had gotten a hold of her.
“Don’t let go!” he hollered, grabbing her wrist and and pulling back. With his free hand, he tried to aim his wand somewhere where he prayed Ginny was not. “Petrificus Totalis!” he thought fiercely, feeling the surge of energy spring from his fingers into the wand. There was a faint gasp and Ginny’s grip relaxed.
Oh, God, I’ve hit her.
“Ginny, speak to me!” he yelled.
Hearing her groan unintelligibly, Harry felt the brace around his lungs loosen. “Thanks for that,” she gasped painfully.
“Are you okay? Did it hurt you?” he asked frantically.
“I’m fine…” Harry thought he heard her breath hitch as though something had stung her, but she quickly said, “Come on, there’s no time!” and tugged him forcibly back towards the stairs so that they could continue in their efforts to clear them. Behind them, Harry could hear the Inferi growling and groaning as they slipped over one another to climb onto the platform after them. He prayed that Hagrid and Ron were making better progress above.
Just then, something heavy knocked into him, throwing him face first against a steel girder. Fingernails like claws dug into his shield cloak, but to Harry’s relief they could not penetrate through it. Just when he thought he might faint from the Inferius’ rank odor, he felt a frigid hand grab onto the chain of his locket. His tongue coated in the metallic tang of blood, Harry might have wretched were it not for the desperation that had canceled every other sensation. The Inferius was strangling him.
“Harry, say something! I can’t see you!” cried Ginny.
But he could not respond. The chain was cutting into his neck - he could not breathe – and he felt sudden anguish overtake him upon realizing what he had to do to survive. Cursing whatever powers that had brought him to that moment, he curled his fingers around the fake Horcrux and yanked the chain off his neck, breaking it. The Inferius quickly lost its grip and swiped at Harry’s arm, and to Harry’s utmost distress, the locket was knocked from his hand. He listened in misery as it clinked against the ground, further and further away, until the sound stopped, and the locket – his last tie to Dumbledore – was lost forever to the darkness.
“Petrificuls Totalis!” cried Ginny, and the Inferius went stiff as a board.
With a loud grunt, Harry flipped onto his back and kicked the petrified body off of him, panting loudly and bringing his hand to his neck to make doubly sure the chain was gone. Indeed, its familiar weight was missing, and the vacant spot beneath his collar left him feeling more vulnerable than ever. For a split second, he considered trying to retrieve it before he heard Ginny’s soft voice squelch his desperation.
“Harry?” she said tearfully.
“I’m all right,” he answered in a raspy voice, trying not to hate himself for sacrificing the locket to the hands of the Inferi. Just then, before he could speak again, he felt yet another cold, clammy hand grab his wrist. Harry automatically flung out his wand, but to his astonishment, there was a loud noise that let him know his spell had been intercepted. Had one of the Death Eaters survived?
“Get a grip, Potter!”
It wasn’t possible…
“Malfoy?” Harry panted.
“Malfoy?!” echoed Ginny.
“In the flesh.” Harry heard the whistle of a curse soar over him and something like a sack of potatoes dropping to the floor. “Grab hold of this,” said Malfoy, and Harry felt him thrust something into his open palm.
Suddenly, as though someone had flipped on a switch, the entire tunnel was resplendent in white light, and Harry shielded his eyes against the glare. When his eyes had finally adjusted, he looked down and saw that he was now holding a twisted knobbly hand with a small, lit candle in its wrinkled palm. It was the Hand of Glory.
Malfoy still held onto one of the withered fingers but could not seem to look Harry in the face. “We’re square now,” he muttered sourly under his breath, and with eyes wide, Harry stared at his archnemesis as though he didn’t recognize him at all. Malfoy motioned to the tracks; a hoard of animate corpses was clawing at the landing, scaling up the sides of the wall on the backs of dead Death Eaters, who now lay in mangled heaps against the side of the track. Quickly surveying their surroundings, Harry noticed that the ground and tunnel walls were slick and dripping from when they had sprayed the Death Eaters with water, and the puddles were tinged red.
“Harry, what’s happening? Where are you?”
He turned to Ginny, who stared blindly past him, groping frantically in the air for his hand. Harry could now see that her leg had been scratched and bloodied.
“Ginny, you’re hurt!” he cried.
“Forget it, it’s nothing,” she asserted, throwing her shield cloak over the wound. “What the hell is Malfoy doing here?”
“Last I checked, I was saving your arses!” yelled Malfoy indignantly as he immobilized another Inferius trying to climb up onto the landing, but two more clambered up in its place. Nothing any of them did seemed to be enough to hold them off. Their decrepit hands would soon be upon them, dragging them off to be devoured or destroyed or whatever it was the Inferi did under Voldemort’s control, and in that moment of supreme terror… Harry thought of Dumbledore.
We need fire.
“Ginny, listen to me,” Harry said sternly. “You need to Apparate out.”
“No, I won’t-“
“Hear me out! There must be some storage room or utility closet somewhere upstairs. Look for something flammable – paint, turpentine, anything” he declared. “We need to incinerate the Inferi. It’s the only way to destroy them.”
Ginny looked as though she were suffering from some sort of internal struggle. “But-“
“But nothing!” he interrupted. “I won’t be alone down here, okay?” he added, casting a half-hearted glance in Malfoy’s direction.
“Forgive me if I’m not exactly relieved at the idea of leaving you down here with that two-faced rodent!” exclaimed Ginny. “You don’t actually trust him, do you?”
“You know, I’m starting to resent your ingratitude, Weasley!” Malfoy interjected angrily.
“Ingratitude!” Ginny shouted scornfully. “You’re lucky I don’t hex you into oblivion for what you did to Dumbledore and for nearly getting my brother killed last year!” Malfoy’s face blanched.
“ENOUGH!” bellowed Harry, and he swiped his hand through the air in time to send an Inferius stumbling off the ledge. “Ginny, you’ve got to do this for me!” Harry said, grabbing her arm and bringing her to her feet. Like a tide of red death, the Inferi were rising above the platform, and to Harry’s right and left, vacant glacial eyes stared him down, their shredded rags stained the same bloody crimson as their bony fingers. With unforeseen dexterity, several more leapt onto the landing.
Still blind in the dark, she found his face with her hands. “All right,” she whispered resignedly, her unseeing eyes watering. “Just… don’t die down here, okay?”
Harry swallowed hard. “Okay.”
And with a POP, Ginny vanished.
“Impedimenta! Incarcerous!” cried Malfoy as the Inferi drew nearer. Harry knew from personal experience that no spell could hold them for any extended duration of time unless it involved fire. The little candle in the mangled hand was flickering brightly; if only he knew how this Hand of Glory actually worked. Suddenly, Harry was struck with an idea.
Experimentally, he stuck his wand out in front of him and concentrated. “Lumos,” he thought, and miraculously, his wand lit up before him.
“Oh, that’s a brilliant idea! Why didn’t I think of that?” snapped Malfoy sarcastically, tugging on the Hand as he kicked a particularly tall Inferius off the ledge. “Just shine a bit of light in their eyes - I’m sure that’ll do the trick!”
“Shut up, will you? I know what I’m doing!” Harry retorted. “If you want to get out of here alive, do us both a favor and cover me for a second….” Nervously reaching for the locket that no longer hung from his neck, he knew exactly which spell they needed, but his mastery over it was faulty; he had only performed it successfully once, and it demanded a degree of concentration that he wasn’t sure he could recreate with an Inferi army clawing at his feet. Breathing hard, he thrust his wand out in front of him and closed his eyes. “Orbis Incendium,” he thought as hard as he could.
The tip of his wand threw out a spurt of flame that quickly died in a puff of orange smoke. Harry cursed under his breath and tried again.
This time, a long tendril of fire emerged from the end of his wand like a brilliant burning rope, flickering and spluttering in the air as the cluster of Inferi just below him began to cower and back away. But Harry simply could not maintain it – the fire began to falter and quiver before it extinguished completely – and to his dismay, they returned to scaling the wall as if nothing had happened at all. How on earth had he made it work before?
Suddenly the sound of falling rocks brought his machinations to a halt. Feeling the first real glimmer of hope since the DA had arrived earlier, Harry’s heart leapt at the thought that Hagrid and Ron must be breaking through the rubble at last.
“Hagrid! Ron! Is that you?”
“Harry, if you can hear me, stand back!” came Ron’s voice.
Just then, Harry felt tremors rippling through the ground beneath his feet, large chunks of rock and metal began to tumble downwards into the pit below, and Harry recognized the sound of Hagrid’s strained voice above him. He was going to push through the wreckage.
“Incarcerous!” yelled Harry at the Inferi cluster to their left, the ropes causing them to fall into each other and topple over, and grabbing Malfoy by the sleeve, he sped them away from the staircase.
With a great yell, Hagrid burst through the rubble, kicking a path down the stairs as he went and sending debris flying out into the tunnel. Ron gingerly skipped down the stairs behind him; he had stripped off his shield cloak, and immediately went about using it to fan out the Instant Darkness powder.
“Harry, I can’ see a bleedin’ thing! Are yeh all righ’?” called Hagrid, squinting and waving his hands over his face as if someone had placed a hood over his eyes.
Harry petrified another Inferius at his feet. “We’re over here!” he called back, but no sooner had the words left his mouth than Harry saw a pair of pale arms snake around Hagrid’s ankle.
“No!” he cried, and impulsively fired a curse at the Inferius and missed. To his extreme horror, it yanked Hagrid’s foot out from under him and his great hulking mass fell forward into the rapacious arms of the Inferi.
It was all he needed. Overtaken by an incredible heat that sprang from the middle of his chest, Harry tore the Hand of Glory away from Malfoy and thrust his wand into the air. An inner voice seared through the tumult in his mind like a burning ember. “ORBIS INCENDIUM!” Harry thought with every ounce of his being.
There was an enormous gust of hot wind. From the end of his wand, a large rope of flame sprang forth and like a whip, it soared over and around the tunnel in a great ring of fire, spinning in the air like a tremendous lasso. In total confusion and disarray, the Inferi released Hagrid’s bruised form, scrambling into one another and tearing at the walls with their skeletal hands for a way out. Squeezing his eyes shut, Harry forced the ring to widen until the entire undead throng was contained within it, trapped in the blaze.
Ron’s voice sounded over the rushing wind. “Harry! I can see it!” he cried exultantly. “The powder must be clearing out!”
But Harry could not address Ron’s comment. Sweat pouring down his face, it seemed to demand every ounce of focus to maintain the spell. The sweltering heat was all over Harry’s body now – behind his eyes and in his ears – and as it funneled into his wand, he felt his palm begin to burn. Dumbledore had made it look so easy, even after he’d been weakened by Voldemort’s toxic potion, he thought scathingly to himself. Harry quickly shook the thought from his mind.
“Hagrid,” he gasped, his jaw clenched, but it seemed he could not force another word from his mouth. The lasso was beginning to flicker.
“Don’ worry ‘bout me! I’m all righ’….” responded Hagrid weakly. “Just keep doin’ what yer doin’!” Prying his eyes open, Harry saw him crawl beneath the blazing ring to safety, but it spun and sparked so close to the platform that Hagrid could not climb back out. Meanwhile, Malfoy stood ill-looking and useless beside Harry, pinned against the wall in fear.
“I… can’t… hold it…” Harry groaned.
“Yes, you can!” shouted another voice. It was Hermione, Ginny was beside her, and they descended the staircase levitating three barrel-sized paint buckets and a spray-can. Leaning slightly on Ginny, Hermione looked pale but revived, while Ginny stood gaping in wonderment at the scene before her.
“Remember what I told you, Harry,” yelled Hermione. “Harness it but don’t let it consume you!”
“The paint…” gasped Harry, too distracted to follow her advice, “just throw… the paint…”
In an instant, Ron had charmed the lids off of each paint can, and distributing the buckets between them, all three of them edged along the wall towards Harry and away from the stairs where the ring of fire could not burn them, levitating the paint out in front of them. It seemed to take them an eternity to finally reach him.
“On three,” said Ron. “One…”
The flame sputtered. “THREE!” howled Harry.
The next second, the fire died in midair and Ron, Hermione, and Ginny sent the paint flying out of the buckets, coating themselves, the Inferi and everything around them in a pasty beige lacquer. As though the distance between the track and the landing was no higher than a small hurdle, Hagrid took the opportunity to jump back onto the platform beside Harry, who had found himself unexpectedly weak and winded and covered in paint. Once more, he raised his wand in an effort to conjure fire, but it seemed he had lost the self-possession to do it.
"Ginny... just like I showed you," yelled Hermione. "Do it now!"
Just then, Ginny quickly cocked her wand upright and sprayed the aerosol can across its tip. “Incendium!” she shouted and converting her wand to a flamethrower, the spray projected the fire directly onto the heads of several Inferi, instantly setting them ablaze. Like insects, they scuttled and crawled over each other to escape, but the more they fought to flee, the quicker the fire spread amongst them, until they were barely visible through the great conflagration.
A black foul-smelling smoke began to rise. Hagrid, being the tallest of them all, fell into a coughing fit, and tried unsuccessfully to duck beneath the dark cloud overhead that was growing ever thicker by the second.
“Hagrid, get up the stairs before you suffocate!” cried Hermione.
“I’m not leavin’ ‘less yer comin’ with me!” choked Hagrid. The flames were quickly growing, towering over their heads, charring the roof of the tunnel and creeping across the ceiling towards the stairs, where a faint breeze kindled the blaze. Sparks began to fly out, and in a sudden burst of heat, a ball of fire erupted on the steps where the paint had splattered.
“We can Apparate out after you,” Harry argued, somewhat revived. Turning to his friends, he added, “come on, let’s clear his path!”
They all raised their wands and cried in unison, “Aguamenti!” and four arches of water fell gently upon the stairs, extinguishing the flames with rush of steam. A cool draft flew back at them, and Harry expelled a long breath as he felt it move over him. It was then that he became aware of the strange feeling that had been slowly infiltrating his system since the moment he freed Ginny and himself from Voldemort’s grasp earlier that night. He could not call it weariness because he was not tired, nor was it painful, but it weighed on him like an added load nonetheless. It made him feel at odds with himself, as though somewhere throughout the course of events that night he had split into two Harrys and one could not keep up with the other. The more he thought about it, the more it worried him, and he resolved to think on the subject no longer.
“Go on, Hagrid,” he said. “We’ll be right behind you.”
Hagrid looked back at Harry and cast him a bittersweet smile. “Dumbledore’d be proud,” he said gruffly. “Yeh know that, don’t yeh, Harry?” Harry sighed and nodded silently. With that, Hagrid ran up the stairs, taking it several steps at time until he disappeared from view.
They put out their wands and gazed into the track, where the Inferi crawled sluggishly about, their flesh no longer an ashen white, but a crispy black. It was an eerie and sinister sight that made Harry’s stomach lurch when he reminded himself that they had at one time been alive.
“Well, it’s been fun, but I’m leaving now,” said Malfoy skittishly from his spot against the wall. Everyone spun around to look at him.
"Blimey, how the hell did you get here?” Ron exclaimed in surprise.
"There's another way in than the stairs, Weaslehead." Ron turned bright scarlet. "What's it to you?"
“Well, if I'd've known you might be coming I would've brought my Sneakoscope!”
Malfoy leered at him arrogantly. “I’ll have to correct my mother after this. She seems to think that the disadvantaged are more apt to be grateful!”
“Oh, I’ll show you ‘disadvantaged’,” Ron shouted hotly, tossing his shield cloak to the ground and advancing on Malfoy with both fists in the air. Hermione and Ginny both grabbed one of Ron’s arms as Harry quickly stepped between them.
“You two had better pipe down,” said Harry and turning to Malfoy he added caustically, “especially you. Another word about the Weasleys and I’ll jinx you!”
“What’s he got to be so smug about anyway?” said Ron, wringing his arms free.
Looking startled, Hermione reached over and took the Hand of Glory from Harry. “This,” she murmured disbelieving, handing it to Ron, who seemed to recognize it instantly. Turning to Malfoy, she said, “You knew they were coming… You… you helped Harry, didn’t you?”
Malfoy screwed up his face as though she had just insulted him, and for a moment Harry was sure 'mudblood' would be the next word out of Malfoy's mouth, but he instead refrained from speaking altogether. Now that Hermione had put the situation into words, even Harry could not seem to bring himself to talk about it.
“It was only fair, wasn’t it,” commented Ginny, “for what Harry did for him.”
Harry felt himself turn beet red.
“Okay, just shut up about it,” Malfoy snapped. “Can we go now?”
Harry stared piercingly into the trench in the faint hope he might miraculously see the locket below, but there was no such luck. The one token of his mission was gone. Coming back to himself, he glanced sideways at Malfoy, retrieved the Hand from Ron and tossed it to him. “You can leave. No one’s keeping you.”
For a brief moment, no one said anything; Malfoy stood guiltily before them. He had done a good deed, but whether it was enough to absolve him of the tragedy he had helped to inflict upon Hogwarts was yet to be determined. Harry certainly wasn’t ready to let the issue drop so easily.
Finally, Malfoy let out a gust of air. “Follow me,” he said curtly. “There’s something I know you’ll want to see.” He turned away from them and began to walk further into the tunnel, away from the stairs.
"Harry, didn't we say we'd follow Hagrid?" Ron insisted.
"Well, yeah, but-"
"Are you lot coming or not?" Malfoy called back to them.
Exchanging dubious glances with his friends, Harry followed; Ron, Hermione, and Ginny trailed close behind. The smoldering flames behind them could not light their way for more than a few yards, and as they lit their wands and went further and further along the tunnel, Harry began to suspect Malfoy’s intentions. It wasn’t until they stopped in front of an elevator that Harry decided to air his concerns.
“Malfoy… why have you taken us to the lift?”
“Because I thought we’d all enjoy a nice stroll,” Malfoy spat sardonically. “Get in. We’re going to the upper platform.”
“But the battle-“ began Ginny.
“The other platform.”
Hesitantly, they filed into the elevator, sharing a communal sense of impending doom as the sliding doors closed. No one said a word as it rose to the upper level, and as the bell chimed to signal their arrival to the platform, Harry moved toward the doors, but Malfoy quickly walked in front him, blocking his way.
“No sudden moves,” he muttered. “Your friend isn’t quite… himself.”
Just then, the doors glided open and Harry’s jaw fell at the sight before them.
There in a pool of moonlight lay a familiar wooly figure, though scars and bleeding wounds had made it barely recognizable. A low growling rumble issued from its chest, which rose and fell in quick shallow spurts, and one of its legs was twitching painfully. Steam rose from its nostrils in the chilled air.
Hermione’s hands flew to her mouth. “Lupin!” she gasped.
Slowly and quietly, they approached his body, careful not to make any moves that would throw Lupin into violent distress. Harry’s heart felt fit to burst as he gazed upon his broken figure, disfigured and animal though it was, and turning to Ron, Hermione, and Ginny, he saw that they shared in his grief.
Ginny seemed to read his mind. “He won’t die, Harry,” she said softly.
Harry blinked at her.
"Ginny's right. In this form, Lupin is virtually indestructible,” Hermione explained. “The only thing that can kill a werewolf is-“
Malfoy cut her off. “Silver.”
Startled, Hermione whipped her head around to look at him. For a moment, everyone forgot to breathe in their common astonishment. Harry stepped back and stopped about a foot from where Malfoy stood. "What did you say?" he asked quietly.
Malfoy glared at him, and his voice full of loathing, he answered, "I said... silver."
"You came up with that answer awfully fast," remarked Harry in a low voice.
"What of it? Doesn't mean anything," he snapped. Harry noticed that Malfoy's eyes couldn't seem to stay on Harry's face for more than a fraction of a second at a time. The next instant Malfoy was turning back towards the elevator, and Harry quickly caught him by the shirt and spun him around.
"Then how do you know?" asked Harry, his penetrating gaze fixed on Malfoy's sallow face.
Perspiration began to form on Malfoy's forehead and he suddenly looked distinctly like a cornered animal. "Sod off, Potter."
Harry needed no other answer. He looked down at the black band around Malfoy's arm and then at Malfoy's sickly face. His eyes went wide, thunderstruck at the prospect of having his suspicions confirmed while simultaneously hoping that he was wrong. "Take off that band, Malfoy."
"I said, sod off!"
"As far as we're all concerned, the Dark Mark is under there. If that's true, then you have nothing to hide that we don't already know about," Harry asserted.
Just then, Ginny joined Harry’s side and thrust her wand under Malfoy’s chin. "Take it off unless you want me to bat-bogey you into the next millennium," snarled Ginny.
Malfoy glared at Harry through the narrow slits of his eyes and begrudgingly undid the black bandage, angrily tearing it off of his arm. Casting it on the floor, he threw his forearm into Harry's face, his chest heaving with fury. "There! Take a nice long look, then!" Malfoy growled, seeming to loathe Harry with every fiber of his being.
"Bloody Hell," whispered Ron in horror. Malfoy’s arm was unbelievably scarred; teeth marks lined his skin all the way up to the crook of his elbow, and the wound looked as raw as if he had been attacked yesterday.
Harry stared at him, utterly astonished and appalled. "It was Greyback, then. He bit you," he murmured, filled with uncomfortable pity and guilt. "You're a werewolf too, that's why you've looked so ill!"
“But… how are you not transformed?” whispered Ginny incredulously.
“Snape must have made him Wolfsbane potion," Harry answered slowly.
"You're half-right," said Hermione. "The potion would have cured his werewolf temperament. But Snape must have used the Homorphus Spell to keep him human." Everyone looked at her quizzically and, clearing her throat nervously, she added, "Gilderoy Lockhart wrote about it in Year With the Yeti." Ron rolled his eyes.
Malfoy lowered his arm and roughly covered it with the sleeve of his cloak. For a moment, he looked like he was going to cry. "I hate you," he muttered, staring fiercely into Harry's face.
Harry stiffened at the ire in Malfoy's voice. In a matter of minutes, their rivalry took on a significance deeper than what their petty differences had ever indicated before. In Malfoy's mind, Harry at once represented everything he was not while also being the cruel reminder of what he might have become if not for the choices he made in foolhardy arrogance. And now, Harry had exposed him. For a moment, he understood every ounce of cruelty Malfoy had cast his way since the day they were sorted into houses at Hogwarts. "How did it happen?" murmured Harry.
"I don't have to tell you anything!"
Harry nodded resignedly. “You're right," he agreed apologetically. “It doesn’t matter.”
Staring at Harry mutely, it seemed Malfoy had not expected him to drop the matter so quickly. As Harry turned away from him, Malfoy muttered, "It was before sixth year.”
Harry stopped and looked back.
“Greyback said... he said it would make me invicible," remarked Malfoy despondently. "It wasn't till my aunt tried to do me in with a silver dagger that I found out how wrong he was. Lucky for me that you used that 'Sectumsempra' curse on me last year, Potter," he added bitterly. "If I hadn't learned it myself, she'd have finished me off."
"Wait... THAT'S how Bellatrix knows the curse?"
A low snarling growl interrupted their discourse. They all froze. Harry backed away from Lupin as if he would spring up off the ground and tear them all to shreds, but looking down, he saw that his body had not moved. As a matter of fact, he seemed to be injured worse than they had previously anticipated.
“Hang on…” whispered Harry. Just then, his gaze lifted off the ground and fell upon a set of glowing red eyes in the distance. Out of the shadows came an enormous four-legged creature, and Harry knew instantly who it was. Its fur was mottled and patchy, but the silvery bristle along its back gave him an appearance that matched his name. As he had done when first laying eyes upon Harry earlier that night, Greyback hungrily ran his long tongue over his yellow fangs. He poised himself for attack.
“Everyone…” whispered Ron in terror, “…get back into the lift!”
They took several tenative steps backward. And Greyback charged.
Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and Malfoy burst into a sprint towards the elevator, but though Harry followed close behind, he quickly skidded to a stop. “What about Lupin?” he cried, turning back.
"Greyback's not after Lupin!” shouted Ron, reaching back and seizing Harry by the arm. “Come ON!”
Harry reluctantly ran behind Ron, his head turning back every several paces to watch as Greyback advanced upon them, howling and barking savagely after them.
“He's gaining!” shouted Malfoy.
No one thought to check their momentum as they all slid into the elevator, tumbling into one another and falling to the ground. Harry climbed over the heap of wriggling bodies to strike any button that would close the doors. He slammed his fist into keypad… but the doors would not close.
“Hurry up, Harry!” cried Ron.
“I am hurrying!” Harry shouted, pounding repeatedly on the buttons.
“Harry, he’s coming!” shrieked Ginny.
"Out of the way!" Hermione lunged forward and roughly shoved Harry away from the doors. But just as she raised her wand, a dark withered figure of a man stepped into view between them and Lupin’s body. He turned and looked directly at Harry.
Harry’s heart leapt into his throat. “Hermione, wait!”
“COLLOPORTUS!” she shouted.
With a squelching crash, the sliding doors closed upon Wormtail’s icy gaze.