Toward End Game
The others vanished.
"Well," said Ron. He frowned, rubbing a hand against his forehead. "Shit happens," he added, but the words sounded less solid than they usually did.
"Crap," said Ron.
"Hello?" he tried.
"..bum," he said.
He was floating. No not floating. Flying. In blackness.
"Oh, bugger this for a lark.."
Dreamscape and dragons. Below him he saw the familiar landscape, the volcanic terrain, the dull red rocks, the vacant horizon.
"..Draco?" Ron tried. He swung himself in the air, looking for the blonde, but Draco was nowhere in sight. There were dragons, though the flitting shapes whirling high overhead. But the dragons weren't dark, but white white spots against the red sky.
Ron floated about a bit, feeling very impractical. The siblant, bodiless voice continued its purring.
"Yeah, yeah. I get the message," Ron muttered. "Got it about six hundred pestes ago, actually."
His skin was crawling with the word, as it had in the dream. Ron stared as the word scrawled itself across his body, but didn't feel particulary afraid. He'd seen it all before, and heard it too. Peste this, peste that, and a brand new tattoo.
Been there. Done that.
He grunted. If this was the best Voldemort could do to scare him, Ron was seriously rethinking his opinion of Dark Lords in general.
"Whatever," said Ron, bobbing in the air. He put his hands behind his head, and closed his eyes.
The voice had a more desperate ring to it, now.
"Oh, peste off," said Ron.
The voice stopped.
"Thank you," said Ron. He crossed one leg over the other, and yawned.
It was a different voice, this time. Ron perked an eyebrow, and squinted.
Don't say a word. No. Shut your mouth. Thank you. Pretend you can't hear me.
Ron was about to say, okay when he thought better of it. He scratched his head, and tried to look comfortable again or as comfortable as he could be a hundred feet in the air without a broomstick.
I can't tell you how to do this. That would be to break the rules not that I haven't broken them already by speaking to you. But it's all up to you. You do know what you are, don't you?
I'm a Ron Weasley, Ron thought. He tried to will the words toward the disembodied voice.
No. You're Death.
I am not. I'm bloody Ron.
No you're not. For the purposes of End Game, you are Death. Just as Harry is War, just as the girl is Pestilence, just as my son is Famine.
Duh. There was a pause. oh, damn. Draco has me saying it, now.
Ron waited, patiently. Below him the landscape was churning spurts of volcanic fire, and the heavy smell of burning ash. He'd seen that before, too, and was consequently unimpressed. He scratched his head with one hand.
Look. Simply put for the world to end, the three other players must be destroyed and what they are, what they symbolise, must also come to an end as a result. But for the death of the universe to occur well, that needs Death, doesn't it?
Say what? Ron scratched his head harder.
For the gods sake. No wonder you're on the bottom of the sociological food chain. It's not a difficult concept to grasp. Once End Game begins, the players become tribulations famine, war, pestilence, death they all become real. Are you with me so far?
Kinda. Oh. And screw you, too.
Shut up, Weasley. I don't have much time. But you do see that for the universe to die, then Death must exist? Listen
Then the voice stopped, suddenly. Ron blinked.
"..er, Lucius?" he said.
There was no reply.
"You're fucking helping him!" Voldemort screamed. "That's against the rules. You can't do that."
"Oh dear, really?" said Lucius. He was sweating the magical effort necessary to tear himself inside the game and into Ron's head had exhausted him. His wand was white-hot in his hand; he imagined it had fused itself into his flesh. He couldn't move his fingers. "Perhaps we should go back and have a rematch, then."
"Don't try to be funny," Voldemort snarled. "You know I can't do that. Once it starts "
"Once it starts, it's out of your hands," said Lucius. "You can't stop it. You can only stop me. Good grief, Tom. Don't look so surprised. You knew I used to cheat at poker all the time. You can't imagine something like this would be any different. Just because I've aligned with good if you want to term it like that it doesn't mean I'm not still a Slytherin at heart. I cheat on my taxes, too."
"They expect at least one percent of my annual profits, or else I have to donate the same amount to charity," said Lucius. It took a great deal of his will to maintain the level drawl of his voice. The pain in his hand had crept to his arm. He wasn't completely sure how Voldemort had severed the connection, but it had hurt so much Lucius had been half expecting to snap from Ron's dragon-reality to find his arm torn away at the shoulder. "Thankfully, I do know of a rather nice charity which donates money to poor wizards and witches with slight, embarrassing disfigurements commonly reviled in polite society," he continued.
"You fourteen toed bastard," Voldemort glared. "What did you tell him?"
Lucius looked coy. "Would you believe the latest Quidditch scores?"
The tendrils that hemmed Voldemort's floating skull lashed forwards at Lucius. But the second they dared to overlap the ring of the circle, there was a hissing sound, and they shot back again, their tips singed. Lucius crossed his one good arm over his chest, the other hanging limply at his side.
Voldemort swore, colourfully.
"That's the problem with Evil Overlords, these days," said Lucius. "They just don't read the handbook. You see, you have to kill the right hand man who betrayed you first, before you go on your apocalyptic mission."
Voldemort was speechless. His mouth moved, but even the most violent of his curses didn't seem to nasty enough.
"I should have ripped your arm off," he said, finally.
"That would have made a lot of Veelas very, very unhappy," said Lucius.
Ron floated. He didn't seem to have anything much to do no demons to vanquish, no one to destroy, no spectres leaping from the earth. Just an erupting red desert landscape and a great big slit down its centre.
He wasn't sure what to make of Lucius' words. Ron had never been interested in metaphysical arguments. So, I'm Death. So fucking what, right? He was secretly pleased with his placement, though. Death was the most exciting of the four titles to have even better than War. Ron the Deathly Rogue; it sounded pretty cool. He wished he still had the sunglasses Charlie had lent him.
And of course he'd be the last one to have to fight any battle, too, if what Lucius said was true. Which meant he could laze about in the background, as he was doing now, and let the others beat Voldemort down to a pulp. Then, as Death, he could wander in and deliver the final, killing blow.
Big chucks indeed. Perhaps this hero lark wasn't going to be so bad. He could imagine himself mentioning this to his ex-girlfriend's sister. Sorry I'm late, honey. I just got caught up, saving the universe and all that. You don't mind if you pay for the meal? I kinda dropped my wallet while battling the Dark Lord.. he paused, wondering if that last part could be considered pushing his luck.
He heard a rumbling below him and spun onto his stomach to watch. The ground was changing colour becoming paler, smaller. There was a fine creasing of lines across its surface, and in the distance, Ron saw four tall, white pillars. Turning, he saw another to the east, slightly shorter than the rest.. and through them, he could see the stars and the shadow of the ruptured moon..
Then gravity got ahold of him, and Ron fell like a stone.
"I told you," Voldemort hissed. "They won't win. Not even with your help."
"Your propensity for spouting cliches surprises even me, Tom," said Lucius. He'd moved to the edge of the circle again; though he knew Voldemort was watching him now, like a hawk. "I think you forgot the evil laugh at the end, though."
Voldemort's skull rocked back; he laughed, evilly. Lucius stuck his hand out of the circle.
"Aaaaaah," went Ron, flailing.
Don't be a pussy. You know he can't hurt you, even if he wants to drop you a hundred feet. He needs you. You're Death, after all. Can't end the world without you.
"Aaaaa oh, right," said Ron, relaxing slightly.
Which means you'll have to end Death before he can end the world.
"Whaaaaat?" said Ron.
Oh for goodness sa aaaargh.
"Aaaaaah," went Ron again, plummeting toward the earth.
Aaaaargh, went Lucius Malfoy.
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