"AT EASE!" Harry ordered as loudly as he could without calling attention to their position.
The laughter subsided, with only an occasional jab at Draco's expense, this time by the second in command. " So - how were the accommodations in Azkaban, Malfoy?"
Draco's face was etched in a frown as he continued to concentrate on his potions. After mixing various concoctions for later use, he busied himself by taking inventory of his bandages.
With a voice full of glee, Ron asked, "Did they have silk sheets in Azkaban?"
Harry rose slightly from prone position to address his brother in law, "That's enough!"
"Shit!" someone exclaimed.
Neville appeared, his body seizing, as blood pooled onto the forest floor.
Draco sprinted towards the injured Auror but stopped abruptly. Taking notice of an orb that had apparated with Neville, he started to slowly step back. A reddish smoky substance swirled and danced within the clear object enticing the soldiers closer.
A chill ran through Draco's spine as he realized what the orb was. "Stay away from Neville! All of you!"
"Come here Medic!" demanded Harry as he ran from his position towards Neville.
Draco continued to step backwards. "Now is not the time to play hero Potter!"
Kneeling at Neville's side and clearly frustrated, Harry yelled as his temper flared, "Refusing an order is insubordination!"
Draco pointed at the orb whose mysterious contents spun faster and faster. "This is an E. M. P. curse. Voldemort was trying to develop the Errant Magical Prevention curse prior to his death. It's capable of rendering your magical powers useless that is if you happen to be within 20 feet of the device when it explodes. The loss of magic is temporary, but also quite effective. It can easily give the Deatheaters an upper hand."
Harry was searching Draco's face, looking for answers. There was no reason for Harry to trust him. "Why should I believe you?"
"My father helped develop it. For all his hatred of mudbloods -"
Ron made a growling sound deep in his throat but Draco continued, "- he was influenced by a muggle device, also called an E.M.P., electromagnetic pulse in which their electrical devices simply stop working. Chaos ensues, as you would know Potter, since muggles rely on electricity in the same way we do magic. If Voldemort had the E. M. P. fully operational before his death, I assure you that none of us would be here today.
"You're probably still in league with those Deatheaters!" accused Ron.
"Ungrateful bastard! You and Potter pointed your knobby fingers at Professor Snape up until the day he died for your cause! If you want to die then so be it, just don't drag everyone else along!" All eyes were on Medic Malfoy as the heated exchange with Lieutenant Weasley continued to spiral out of control, " Every minute spent accusing me is a minute wasted getting to safety!"
Ron shook with anger, "And you'd let Neville die?!"
Draco spoke calmly being sure to look at each and every soldier, "We may have to sacrifice one or face the massacre of all."
Ron walked forward, stopping within arms reach of his archenemy. "Death is that easy for you, isn't it?"
"If you take my advice, we'd be of better help to Neville!"
Harry's eyes stayed fixed on Neville, "Leave No Man Behind." He pointed to Private Johnson, "Get on the two way mirror and call 2nd platoon for backup. Ask Captain Granger-Weasley to send in her best curse breakers."
Draco lowered his voice so that only Harry and Private Johnson could hear, "Request additional medics and a healer." Staring at the orb once again he walked towards the back of the clearing.
"Roger that." Pvt. Johnson took out the 2-way mirror and started the communications, "Echo two this is Echo one - over...."
Harry met the medic's eyes studying the grim expression as reality set in. They both knew that death would visit 1st platoon tonight.
Harry nodded towards Draco in agreement, "Abort Mission, Prepare to Apparate."
A deafening explosion fell onto the ears of first platoon as a blinding light colored the velvet sky.
"Open your eyes."
At the sound of Draco's voice, Ginny's eyes fluttered open.
If only 2nd platoon had been faster, if only their communications hadn't been cut prematurely. So many if's.
Being in Draco's memory, her own was stirred in remembrance as well. After Voldemort's fall, the remaining missions were supposed to be easier. Harry Potter and the Order were invincible.
A nagging thought played in the back of her mind, had 2nd platoon arrived at that instant, there would be no Draco and Ginny. The very idea hurt her as much as the knowledge that soon in this memory, Harry would be no more.
Ginny distanced herself from those thoughts, focusing her attention back to the unfolding events before her.
The bright light started to fade as darkness reclaimed the night.
"Give me report!" shouted Harry so that all could hear. It was too late to worry about giving away their location, "1st squad?!"
"All present and accounted for." Came the voice of Sergeant Justin Finch- Fletchley.
"2nd squad.." the anxiety in Harry's voice lessened as he was assured all his 4 squads was safe. "Anyone hurt?"
Only Neville was still wounded. With the present danger passing, Draco attended to the patient. He poured a frothy liquid down Neville's throat. Initially he coughed violently, Draco administered more of the liquid. Neville's seizures subsided as his respirations returned to normal.
"I-I'm sorry.." Neville managed to say, " Our contact...Zabini... found out...Bellatrix Lestrange was torturing ...had to stop..I'm sorry." Neville drifted in and out of consciousness.
Draco grabbed bandages from his bag and started to dress Neville's wounds. "Cruento Desiit" he whispered as he tapped the wounds with his wand. Slowly the wounds started to repair themselves; the blood loss appeared controlled. Draco thanked the Gods aloud that he had been outside the 20 ft perimeter, "Potter, tell your men to check their magic."
Harry gave the order, hearing his platoon chant the familiar and simple spell, "Lumos"
Rumors started to spread amongst the Aurors. Magic was a constant. It was always there, like the oxygen one breathed. They all turned their eyes on Harry. If they could do nothing else, Harry would take care of them.
Harry flicked his wand with expert skill, "Lumos!"
No light. They were without magic, about to face whatever surprise the Deatheaters had planned. Defenseless.
"Aurors, keep watch on your perimeter!" Harry's voice stayed calm and authoritative, not betraying what everyone knew he must feel, fear.
They kept watch peering into the dark woods ahead. The light that had been there previously had disappeared. First platoon waited and watched, straining to hear any pops that would warn them of an intrusion. Still there was nothing.
"Something's out there." Private Dennis Creevey whispered, "Near that pine tree on the right."
Sergeant Finch-Fletchley grumbled, "You're scaring yourself, I don't see a thing."
"Look closer, that shadow is moving!"
That's when Lt. Weasley saw hundreds of ghostlike black on black shadows hovering above the ground advancing towards them. The stars that provided light had slipped from view. The moon that had shone brightly became invisible as the air surrounding the Aurors lost its warmth. "Gods help us!"
The dementors crept closer revealing their grayish skeletal features that brought hopelessness and death. Coldness filled the Aurors mentally as well as physically, each one dropping to the ground shivering.
Pvt. Creevey clutched his chest, "I - I can't breathe!"
Harry's tone now matched the panicked soldiers, despite his order, "C- C -Calm down Private."
"Respiro." Draco shakily pointed his wand at the hyperventilating soldier. A whoosh of air sounded as it rushed in the young soldier's lungs.
A desperate Harry shouted, "EXPECTO PATRONUM!" as the Dementors surrounded first Platoon. It was of no use. He prayed to the Gods then that his patronus would appear. Tonight they would not be listening .
Sgt Finch- Fletchley was the first one to scream as a Dementor's jaws locked onto his mouth. Soon the Sgt. ceased to make sounds, his body falling, as if lifeless onto the grassy floor.
From all directions came terrified voices and cries of grown men.
"I can't see! I can't see!"
Harry cried out as a Dementor leaned over him, grasping his neck with icy fingers. "No!!" was his blood curdling scream.
Fire engulfed the dementors as the dragon's scales caught the reflection of the horror around it. It thrashed wildly impaling dementors on its horns before tossing and flinging them upon a funeral pyre. The dementors realizing their defeat rose into the sky, escaping the flames below.
Standing in the middle of the platoon was Draco, his wand still pointed to the now vanishing patronus. Dozens of Aurors lay around him, their souls already taken.
Surveying the survivors, Harry slumped to the ground. Out of 40 Aurors only 6 were all that remained. "I couldn't protect them!"
"Harry! Get up!" Ron reached down and lifted Harry to his feet, "Your men need you!"
Lt. Ron Weasley, Sergeant Neville Longbottom, Corporal Ernie Macmillan, Private Dennis Creevey, and Medic Draco Malfoy were all that had been lucky enough not to receive the dementor's kiss.
Regaining his composure, Harry straightened up and immediately started barking orders.
"Private Creevey, I want you to stay with Neville. Corporal, retrieve the two way mirror from Johnson and attempt to re-contact 2nd platoon. Tell them we have men down." Harry breathed deeply as the whimpers of the Dementor's victims reached his ears. He kicked a small tree repeatedly, letting the rage building inside him to release. He pointed to Ron and Draco, "We'll be heading to the mansion as planned."
"I just want to say," Ron's next words caused him great difficulty. "Th-th- thank you." He managed to croak.
Trudging through the forest, Draco ignored him, not bothering to say welcome.
"Yes, um, where did you learn to produce a Patronus?" Harry asked as he swept a branch away from his face.
"Azkaban." Draco said, ignoring the shocked glances shared by Ron and Harry.
Ron asked as they jumped over a small creek, "How long until we regain our powers?"
"When the Errant Magical Prevention Curse was in development, it was 10 minutes."
Harry slapped at buzzing flies that started to gather in ever increasing numbers, "What the Hell?!"
They caught sight of an unmoving black-haired man. Hanging from a tree was Zabini's body. His tongue had been torn from his mouth. Emptiness stared at them. Zabini's eyes had been ripped from their sockets.
"Bloody Monsters!" cried Ron. More dead bodies swayed from the trees. Inhabitants from a nearby muggle village who had suffered the same fate as Blaise Zabini. Men, women, and children.
A witch they recognized as the former Padma Patil hung next to her muggle husband. Her unborn baby had been ripped from her womb, lying in a horrendous mass at the base of the tree.
Closing his eyes and not bothering to hide his weakness, Draco vomited. Harry leaned against a tree trying not to do the same.
Neville wasn't incompetent. He was human. Had it been any one of them that had scouted the mission, they too would have interfered.
"DEATH EATERS - PREPARE TO MEET HELL TONIGHT" Harry's voice bellowed letting the wind carry out his threat.
She had heard about the massacre, but had never seen it. Ginny covered her mouth fighting the same urge.
Draco's eyes were closed as well, matching the Draco of his memory. She didn't bother telling him to open them. Instead she rubbed his back soothingly, reminding him that it was just a memory. It wasn't taking place now. The memory was almost over. Almost.
Looming before them was the sinister-looking mansion. It seemed alive. Huge glass windows watched their every move. Unspeakable things happened here, including the development of the E M P curse and torture of innocents. Now they knew without a shadow of a doubt that the remaining Deatheaters, even without their leader were still a serious threat. They had to be hunted and brought to justice.
"So glad you could join us!" a high pitched cackle belonging to Bellatrix Lestrange greeted them. "Expelliarmus." She chuckled as she collected their wands , "Too easy, too easy."
Mulciber joined her, a huge grin plastered on his face as he saw who the prisoners were.
"Did you enjoy our handiwork?" behind them Draco took note of his former Slytherin housemates Marcus Flint and Malcolm Baddock. "Fancy meeting you here Malfoy!" before Draco could reply ,Marcus cocked his arm back delivering a blow to Draco's jaw. "That's for always losing Quidditch to Gryffindor."
Bellatrix held up a hand to Marcus indicating for him to stop as she swept an approving gaze over Draco, "Nephew." She hissed, her breath hot in his ear. "Looking more and more like Lucius with each passing day, rest his evil soul." She ran a pointed finger along his chest drawing out her words slowly, "So like your father."
Draco stiffened, "Get away from me."
Bellatrix pretended to fight back tears, "That's what your mother said before I killed her! So much like your mother too!"
Draco lunged at his aunt before being hit by the Stupefy spell, falling to the ground.
"Remember when you used to hide from me every time your auntie wanted to give you a kiss? " Bellatrix delivered a swift kick to Draco's stomach. "You can't hide anymore."
She motioned to Mulciber. Pinning Draco's hands behind him, Mulciber dragged him up facing his Aunt Bellatrix once again. Grabbing the back of his head forcefully with her right arm she brought his head down, pressing her lips to his while her other arm snaked inside his cloak. Her moans caused Ron and Harry to look in the opposite direction while the deatheaters ogled, viewing the sadistic display as entertainment.
Bellatrix stomped her foot, "You're supposed to kiss back! Bad Boy! Now I will have to punish you!" Trailing her tongue lightly over his lip, she whispered, "I want to see you bleed nephew!" She bit his lip hard, breaking it, causing blood to run down his chin. "When you were 18 you loved getting kissies from your auntie. Have you told your friends about us? Hmm? Why don't you tell them how I used to put you to bed every single night."
Draco spit on her. His gray eyes darkened like angry storm clouds. "Bitch"
Bellatrix flashed her own wicked smile at him as she wiped Draco's spit from her face. She plunged her teeth on his earlobe. Satisfied after hearing him yelp in pain, she stepped back admiring her handiwork. She smoothed Draco's hair back as he flinched at her touch. "Tsk, Tsk. I liked you a lot better when you were younger. Much easier to control. " She ripped the arm of his cloak exposing his dark mark. "That's more like it nephew." Draco tried to pull away from her, knowing exactly what was coming next.
"You're not surprising in the least, Aunt Bellatrix." He added through gritted teeth.
She traced the outline of the dark mark with her mouth, kissing it, admiring it before raking her nails into his flesh as he struggled.
Ron seethed with anger, "You're a sick bunch of bastards!"
A sudden chill hung onto the edge of Lestrange's words, "OFF WITH HIS TONGUE!"
Baddock charmed a piece of rope to tie the hands of all three as he pulled a glimmering object from his cloak, " I prefer the muggle way to magic. Slower and more painful, don't you agree?" He winked as he brought a knife down to Ron's throat drawing blood. "That's for starters, Weasley."
Bellatrix flipped her hair back as she turned towards the mansion. Sitting herself on the steps she clapped her hands, "Time to watch the show!"
Bellatrix screamed as the wands flew to their original owners.
Shouts of Stupefy and flashes of bright light followed,
"Petrificus totalis!" Ron shouted as Flint and Baddock turned as stiff as stone. "My magic's back Harry!"
Bellatrix backed up the stairs grabbing her broom.
"Incendio!" Bellatrix's broom burst into flames at Draco's command.
"She'll apparate out of there!" Harry said frustrated. " We'll never get her!"
"Not to worry Potter, The Lestrange Manor doesn't let people apparate into or out of the house, grounds yes, house no."
Harry and Draco raced towards the house as Bellatrix slammed the door behind her.
"Alohomora." Harry muttered. The door swung open, "Lumos." he grinned seeing light emit from the tip of his wand
"There she is!" Catching site of Lestrange, Harry ran down a wood paneled hallway closely followed by Draco.
Ron Weasley's screams stopped Draco in his tracks. Racing outside he found Mulciber standing over Ron's body. "IMPERIO!"
As if in slow motion Draco watched as Mulciber handed Ron the knife. Ron took the knife plunging it deep into his own chest, over and over and over.
"Crucio!" a blinding white light struck Mulciber causing him to topple over, twitching and writhing in pain mercilessly. Not one to miss an opportunity, Draco issued a kick of his own to Mulciber's stomach. "This is for Blaise!" He kicked him again, this time in the face, "This is for Padma Patil!" His final kick in Mulciber's groin gave him some sense of due process, "This is for the mudbloods!"
Now more focused, he rushed to Ron's side. Ron's pupils rolled into the back of his head so that only the whites of the eye were visible. Draco did a quick vital sign spell as he applied pressure to his chest wound. Bright red numbers floated from the tip of his wand. 70/40, was his blood pressure, dangerously low and indicative of severe blood loss. Ron shivered, feeling clammy to Draco's touch, he was clearly in shock. Draco muttered one healing spell after the other, "Cruento Desiit, Respiro, Tepidus Corpus ...."
"It hurts, it hurts." Ron cried as his mouth filled with blood, " I- I don't want to die."
"You're not going to die, Weasley!" Draco said with conviction, "I won't let you!" Draco inspected all the wounds pouring additional medicine on them, watching it fizz as the skin started to slowly repair itself. Not fast enough. If the healers didn't get here, if he wasn't transported to St Mungo's immediately....
"Tell Mione I love her." Ron's breath became ragged as he grasped onto the knife still imbedded in his chest." Draco placed padding around the knife, stabilizing it. If taken out Ron would indeed bleed to death in the middle of the Lestrange Gardens.
A crash brought his attention to the mansion. Viewing the ballroom through the bay windows, Draco could make out Harry and Bellatrix currently engaged in a wizard's dual. The windows each in turn exploded outward sending broken glass flying across the once manicured lawn.
For the first time in his life, Draco rooted for Harry. "You're going to get what you deserve Aunt Bellatrix!"
"Avada Kedavra!" The hated curse.
Simultaneously he heard the words hurled with ferocity by both his aunt and Potter. Watching the mansion begin to fill with eerie green light until they were no longer visible through the windows, Draco watched in horrified awe. Expanding in and out, the mansion started to breath. Lestrange Mansion lifted off it's foundation before it exploded and shattered into a million pieces.
Stillness replaced what was once a fight for their lives. Pieces of wood and glass littered the lawn amongst Draco and Ron.
"Potter!" Draco yelled. He would have given anything at that moment to hear the familiar voice of the hated scarhead answer back . There wouldn't be a reply. Chanting a pain medicine spell before leaving Ron, he caught sight of an object in the middle of what was once the mansion. Harry Potter's wand.
Second Platoon had arrived.
Captain Granger-Weasley spotted Draco first. "Medic Malfoy," she said as she headed towards him. "I'll need a full after action report -"
Malfoy cut her off, " I need your best healer Captain."
" Dumbledore will need this information now. I'll send for a medic later!" Hermione tapped her foot impatiently.
Malfoy spun her around, " That can wait! My soldier needs to be evacuated immediately!" he said forcefully.
Hermione let out a cry as she laid eyes on her wounded husband. "Ron!" She ran towards Ron, collapsing beside him.
Her soldiers simply stared, not knowing how to react with their leader losing control.
"You!" Malfoy took charge pointing to a private, "Contact your healer!"
"H-Healer Ginny Potter is with Sergeant Longbottom." She replied, taken aback at the Medic's angry tone of voice.
Malfoy snatched the two-way mirror from the young Auror, "You are useless private!"
Raising the mirror to his face, he said loudly, "GINNY POTTER" At first the image was blurry, suddenly becoming clear. "This is Healer Ginny Potter- Go ahead with your message ."
"Healer Potter, we have a casualty who has multiple chest wounds, I suspect a punctured lung. He needs to be transported out of the area as soon as possible."
"Roger that Malfoy."
More Pops were heard as Ginny Potter arrived with a team of medics. Her face lost color as she saw whom the wounded Auror was. Wasting no time she chanted a sterilization spell and began to perform field surgery beneath the stars on her brother. "Medic Malfoy, I need your assistance!" she ordered snapping her fingers at the tall blonde.
An odd feeling rose inside Ginny as she watched her past self race the clock to save her brother. It was another life. Almost as if she had never lived it. Becoming a healer had been her dream and passion. In just a few minutes after successfully operating on her brother, she would make the decision to no longer be a healer. After all, she hadn't been able to save her own husband.
Hermione stood shaking beyond the sterilization barrier, as her husband's life hung in the balance. Her sister in law, Lieutenant Ginny Potter refused to show fear taking full control of the situation. Combining the talents of the individual medics into a cohesive team, Ronald Weasley was finally stabilized.
"We'll be transferring him to St Mungo's, Captain." Ginny replied not losing any formality with her sister in law.
Instead of a broom, a medical evacuation flying carpet appeared on which the medics lowered a very anesthetized Ronald Weasley. Hermione and another medic followed.
"We'll inspect the remaining area ma'am." Sgt Dean Thomas saluted, watching them take off into the early dawn. Dean Thomas divided the platoon up into two, instructing them to cover every inch of Lestrange Manor.
Lieutenant Ginny Potter waved Medic Malfoy over, asking him to give names of the survivors.
He never mentioned Harry.
Harry had killed Voldemort. Operation Lestrange was supposed to be an easy mission. A piece of cake, he had told her. It would take not more than half an hour to accomplish. Harry couldn't have died. Malfoy must have made a mistake.
"Any other survivors?" she asked forcing her voice to remain steady.
Malfoy considered the red haired woman for a minute. "Perhaps you should have a seat." Without giving her a choice he put his hands on her shoulders, gently forcing her to kneel down on the damp grass.
He lowered himself to face her, fumbling in his pocket. "I - I think you should have this"
It was Harry's blood and soot covered wand. Ginny took it, staring at it for a moment. As if it might reveal Harry, she turned the wand over in her hands .
"NO! No!" Ginny covered her tear-streaked face with her hands. "You've made a mistake! He's out there. He needs my help I can feel it!"
Ginny started walking towards the woods when Malfoy grabbed her not wanting her to see the frightening sights beyond.
"No! My husband is alive." she choked , holding her chest as if she couldn't breath.
"Lieutenant," his eyes darkened in pain with her, "Harry Potter is dead."
Sgt. Dean Thomas and Sgt. Seamus Finnegan watching the drama unfold, offered their support to Ginny.
"Leave me alone!" she screamed. She twisted around to face Draco, "You're a liar MALFOY!" she started to strike at his chest. Draco caught her arms. He held her tight preventing Ginny from releasing any more blows. Suddenly she became limp collapsing against him, her body shaking with misery. She sobbed into him, "Harry " she cried, "Harry.... come back to me Harry!"
This time Ginny found herself being swept away into the potions classroom, still crying against Draco. Her tears falling against his neck. She wrapped her hands around him, trying not to drown, allowing him to be her life preserver amongst the sea of sorrows. It was just like before. Except this time when he held onto her, he kissed her forehead. Rocking silently with her until she fell asleep, Draco summoned his broom. Cradling her in his arms, they flew home.
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