Author's Notes: Thanks go to my beta and to all those who sent feedback about the original draft of the fic at schnoogle or on my LJ. Your help is greatly appreciated.
Gold Tinted Spectacles
Chapter 35 - Holding On
Harry sat in the chair failing to listen to the members of the Order for a good hour before he even attempted to move. He used the time to focus his mind again and every time the Death Eaters hit Draco with Cruciatus the young man let his thoughts curl around the pain, refusing to let it take over, but feeling it none the less. He knew Draco would not be able to discern what he was thinking but he continued to send all the love and support he could. It was impossible to know if his soul mate could understand, but it was all he could do, and each time the torment ended Draco was still there.
Everyone left him alone and by the time Moody came into the room to collect him for the mission Harry was standing looking out of the window, his mask firmly in place. Dawn was almost on them and he turned to the retired Auror as soon as the man walked in.
"Well, Boy," Moody said evenly, "it's time, are you ready?"
Harry looked at the man coolly and nodded without replying, which seemed to be enough for the ex-Auror. However, as the wizard turned to leave, something in the Gryffindor snapped and Harry's anger escaped his icy control just a little.
"Do you believe he's not one of them now?" he asked acidly.
Moody paused and turned back slowly, his features calm and collected.
"Either that, or you've sold us out as well, Boy," the wizard said calmly and without bothering to find out what Harry would say to that Moody walked out of the room.
The fury inside the Hecatemus almost found a target then, but Harry knew he needed the powerful emotion, and although he burned to turn his anger on the paranoid ex-Auror he reeled it in. There would be targets for his rage on the other side and the outcome of the mission would settle Moody's problem once and for all.
Pulling himself to his full height, Harry walked out of the room and towards the group of people waiting by the front door. Some of the team he did not recognise, but those he did were Ron, Fred and George, Tonks, Remus, Moody and Dumbledore. There were another four with them and Harry assumed they were the Ministry people that the headmaster had wanted for the mission. The Hecatemus was not completely sure the Aurors were there because they were the only ones for the job, or if this was a cooperation exercise orchestrated by Dumbledore, but he didn't really care if it meant he could have Draco back.
Harry already knew how they were going to get in and what he was expected to do once they did, and he saw little point in wasting energy in speaking. He met the gaze of each member of the group once and then he set his eyes towards the door. The only thing that mattered to him was Draco and he was not in Blake house. He barely even blinked when Moody cast a Disillusionment charm over him and the familiar cold feeling flowed over his body. The magic in the spell made his skin tingle, but he ignored it.
"Let's go," Moody said firmly after the whole group had been camouflaged.
Brancepeth castle was a few miles down the road, but it was no distance on a broom. It was a warm night and they were flying low, but the speed put a chill into the air, reminding Harry of the high flying he had done way back in his fifth year. It was nowhere near as bad, but the scene was so familiar, only this time he was not flying away from danger but into it. During the whole journey only once did he almost falter when Draco was again subjected to torment, but Harry held on and his rage burned that little bit brighter.
It was as they flew into the grounds that Harry felt the tingling over his body begin to fade and the whole party descended to the ground, becoming clearly visible as they did so. There were protections on the castle and its surroundings preventing concealment spells, a fact which had been ascertained on the scouting missions carried out earlier so it did not surprise anyone. Countering the alarms had been taken care of, but since the charm the group was using was only practical from a distance they had not bothered to extend its usefulness.
Two of the team: Tonks and one of the other Aurors, were sent in as the others waited and Harry heard some unsettling noises before the pair appeared again. The young man was in no doubt that a least one, if not more, human beings had just died, but he refused to think about it as the main group made their way into the target building. It was a dank, dark back door to what had to once have been the servants' part of the castle, but all Harry cared about was the fact that it let him into the structure. The moment he was inside he moved to the side wall and let his barriers drop to a very low level sending his senses out as fast as he could.
It was not like Hogwarts, it wasn't even like Blake house and the moment Harry let the place into his mind he wanted to be ill. The whole building reeked of Dark magic and evil things that assailed his mind like spiders or oozing leeches. The power here was alien to him as it twisted its surroundings rather than working in harmony to create what it wanted. Suddenly the difference between light and dark magic was so clear in Harry's mind it was painful, but he pushed through it. The energy around him might not have been what he was used to, but it could still tell him what he needed to know.
The castle was very large, but he did not need to learn everything about it and the Hecatemus let his senses skim over the whole place. The strange, abstract world Harry perceived with his magical connection formed a picture in his mind of his surroundings and the young wizard let his instincts lead him. It did not take him long to find the information he needed.
"Twenty wizards, three Muggles," Harry began to speak as soon as he assimilated the data. "Twelve wizards upstairs all together with one of the Muggles; the Muggle is almost dead, I think the Death Eaters have been playing. There are only two ways down from there to here, one at the end of this corridor, turn left, go up the stairs and they are in the large room opposite. The other is at the opposite end of the wing but it's blocked by wards."
The wizard's mind roamed on and continued to form the abstract ideas which became detailed information.
"Other eight wizards are down from here, in," Harry searched for the right word, "in the dungeon. One way down: take the first right, then left, then right again. Two wizards are at the entrance, another two about one hundred yards after the bottom of the stairs. The two Muggles are somewhere there as well but they're more difficult to pinpoint. The other four wizards are behind some very powerful wards towards the end of the tunnels. It's difficult to see past them; they are very old and strong, but one of those inside is Draco, and I think another is Lucius Malfoy."
Just as Harry withdrew his ranging senses he felt his lover subjected to Crucio yet again and his control almost gave. When the Gryffindor came back to himself he was breathing hard and Moody was eyeing him sceptically. Straightening his back Harry glared at the man directly in his magical eye and dared the ex-Auror to say anything. Now was not the time the Hecatemus would fail; not when he was so close.
"Fred, George, Austin, Grebes," Dumbledore spoke quickly and with all his calm authority. "Go upstairs and prevent those above from coming below. Do whatever is necessary. Everyone else, we are going to the dungeon."
A small part of Harry's mind informed him that this was all completely crazy, but most of him was focused on his soul mate's rescue. Without considering exactly what he was doing, the Hecatemus gripped his wand and followed Ron down the corridor. Harry had no doubt whatsoever that every one in the party was prepared to carry out whatever might be necessary to succeed in the mission.
Harry felt Draco's pain well up again and he almost lost hope. Holding onto his lover's sanity through the barrier keeping them apart was like trying to hold on to a slippery fish and it was killing them both. No one could get past the dark wards protecting the dungeon where Draco was being held and even the supreme effort of the combined team seemed futile. This was not right and yet he could not reach his lover.
For the hundredth time he looked up at the web of magic that surrounded the dungeon: it pulsed with evil intent and filled his senses with a sick dark feeling. It was too complicated for him to unravel and with Draco's agony running through his mind he could not concentrate hard enough to use regular magic like the others.
Draco was slipping away from him. They could all hear the youth's screams as they echoed through the dark halls and they were becoming weaker. Harry turned and leant his head against the wall trying so hard to reach his soul mate through the spell that enshrouded him.
"No, Draco, don't give up," he whispered breathlessly as Draco's presence dimmed even more, "we're coming, stay with me."
Complete despair reached up to grab Harry as all his efforts seemed to fail. As Draco's screams died away the confused link from Harry's mind to his lover's began to fade and a wail started deep inside him. Without Draco there was only madness; without Draco life was not worth living; and Harry did not care about anything else. As his lover's life slipped away so did Harry's sanity and his defences crumbled.
Harry's mental barriers fell completely and he was assailed by emotions and raw power. Magic leapt at him from his companion's spells as they tried to cast at the dark wards blocking their way, power even leeched from the wards themselves. Not caring what it would do to him Harry welcomed the raw magic and took it all inside feeling the burning of the power in his veins. Draco was leaving him and all that he needed in the world was Draco: it was wrong.
"This is getting us nowhere," someone spoke but Harry did not even try to figure out whom; his sole focus was Draco, "we need to find another way in."
Like a child throwing a tantrum Harry let the desperation mutate into anger and fury. With a snarl he pushed himself away from the wall and moved past his regrouping companions walking swiftly to the magical barrier that was blocking the corridor. Beyond caring what the consequences might be, Harry reached out and took hold of the tangled web of magic that made up the wards. Instantly the sick, evil feeling of the dark power flooded him: these wards had been made in pain and suffering with old blood magic and Harry could almost feel the deaths of those sacrificed to create them. He heard a groan escape his lips and someone called to him, but he ignored both.
Balling up all the emotion and the magic inside him he screamed his fury to the world and using every ounce of Quidditch trained muscle he possessed he pulled. There was no way he could unravel the dark wards, they were far too complicated for anything but long term dismantling, so instead he went for brute force. Desperation and partial insanity were not a good combination for most circumstances, but right about then Harry found them very useful. It never occurred to him that what he was doing should have been impossible, or that he might just as easily tear himself apart as the wards and he ripped at the fabric of the magic recklessly.
The effects were quite startling: after only a few moments the shimmering barrier gained an ugly green crack where his finger's held it. The crack became wider as he pulled with every fibre of his being and then things escalated. From a green line about two feet in length the barrier shattered almost like a windscreen of a car, covering its whole surface in small glowing cracks. Then it exploded outwards and Harry felt himself flying through the air. He collided with someone and then they both hit the sidewall where the corridor bent to the left. It was a stunning experience and Harry lost his hold on the real world.
When sensation returned the first thing Harry did was reach for Draco and he found the confused, faint echo of the man he loved: at least the other wizard was still alive and for the moment he was not in pain. It was an instinctive act and only after he was sure his soul mate was still alive did anything else make it into his mind. Harry felt excitement, fear and pain and realised that not all of the feelings running through him were not his own. He opened his eyes to find himself gazing up at a worried looking Ron. It took Harry a few seconds, but he realised he was lying with his head in his friend's lap on the dungeon floor. Ron's red hair clashed with the colours of strong emotion coming off him.
"Harry?" hid best friend asked hesitantly as Harry blinked up at him.
"Um," was about all the reply he could manage.
"I thought I'd lost you for a moment there," Ron said quietly, "you stopped breathing on me, had to hit you with Ennervate twice."
That explained the tingling in his limbs and Harry had the distinct impression that moving would be a very bad idea.
"What happened?" Harry managed to force one question between his lips.
"You brought the wards down," Ron explained quickly, "but it caused a backlash. You and me hit the wall hard, you went out and I broke my leg: the same one I broke in the third year, different place though. The others went in about five minutes ago and I heard lots of shouting, but it went quiet a few seconds ago."
At the news Harry really wanted to find out what was happening, but when he tried to sit up pain flashed through his body. He was not sure, but it definitely felt as if there was more than one broken bone and his muscles had been put through the ringer.
"Don't try and move," Ron said urgently at Harry's efforts, "the others can handle whatever's going on. You're hurt and killing yourself is not going to help anyone."
Harry wanted to protest, but he had no energy left to even form the words. All he could do was lie across Ron's legs and wait.
"Don't worry, Harry," his friend said with a certainty that was actually mirrored in his feelings, "we'll have you and Draco back together before you know it. That stuck up Malfoy will be a thorn in my side again, like this never happened."
Ron's firm belief that everything would be all right was a comfort in the hell the universe had morphed into, but Harry could not relax until his friend's predictions came true. His body wanted him to fall into darkness and let the pain go away, but he had to hold firmly onto Draco. He focussed solely on keeping his soul mate with him through the spell that held them apart. It was an entirely different agony than the physical pain to be blocked from Draco and it cut into his soul, but it helped him to hold on.
When it suddenly vanished, it was such an incredible feeling that Harry's body responded without his volition: he gasped loudly and his back arched off the floor as if he'd been electrocuted. The fact that he could now feel with complete clarity the torture of Draco's as well as his own broken body did not matter. He was barely aware of the sob of pain that came out of his mouth as he fell back onto the cold floor; all Harry knew was that his soul mate was back in his mind. Draco's thoughts were incoherent and he was not really aware, but at an instinctive level Harry could feel his lover reaching for him. For what felt like forever Harry let the relief flood through him, but he was brought back to the world by an urgent voice.
"Harry, what's the matter?" Ron sounded frantic. "You better not be dying on me, Potter."
Out of self-preservation more than anything else Harry managed to bring up his hand and enclose his fingers around Ron's wand hand before his friend could hit him with another Ennervate charm. He could not speak and he knew he would succumb to his injuries soon, but he tried to convey what he was feeling to Ron with his eyes.
"They did it?" Ron's words were half statement, half question and Harry let his arm fall back to the floor. "See, told you."
Harry would have laughed at the smug tone if he hadn't been in quite so much pain. He barely had the ability to smile.
"Now isn't this a picture," alarm shot through Harry as he heard those words: the voice would haunt his nightmares for the rest of his life.
Knowing who he would see Harry moved his head to the side and looked at Lucius Malfoy standing beside the open entrance to a hidden passage. Draco's father was sporting a cut above one eyebrow and his left arm hung uselessly at his side, but he still had a wand in his other hand.
"Don't think it, Boy," the Death Eater said coldly as Harry felt Ron shift. "Raise that wand and you die instantly, the only one I want is the great Harry Potter. Sit still and you'll live a while longer."
The desire to laugh at the irony of the situation bubbled up in Harry, but his muscles would not obey him to let it out. Lucius' words were not the thing to say to a Gryffindor and Harry felt his friend move anyway; if Ron was going down he was going down fighting. It all seemed faintly absurd and Harry was pretty sure he was losing his grasp on reality. Lucius was of course faster than Ron and Harry was not the least bit surprised as he heard the words of the Killing Curse roll off the Death Eater's tongue. At the same moment a green flash emerged from the end of the elder Malfoy's wand Harry held up his hand.
A green, amorphous ball of seething magic halted just short of Harry's fingers. He held it there for a second watching the curse writhe against his control. In his altered state of mind Harry decided it looked rather pretty, but it felt nasty and it did not like him holding it. It was almost like hanging on to a living thing and he knew without a doubt that the magic wanted to kill him. Not pleased with this, he glared at it, told it in some abstract way that killing was not going to happen and then flicked it back the way it had come. The last thing Harry saw was Lucius Malfoy sailing through the air with a very surprised look on his face.
End of Chapter 35
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