Toward End Game

Chapter Nine

By Libertine


Hermione crawled to her feet. Pulling a hand through her knotted hair, she noticed with some relief that her hands were no longer green. But the crown was still firmly attached to her scalp. She shook her head, miserably, gazing around the pale landscape before her.

Voldemort had killed Viktor – she couldn't come to terms with the idea of life without her lover. She couldn't believe he was gone; she pushed him out of her mind. She was stronger than that. Maybe it was all a dream, after all – maybe it was an illusion to see how she reacted. It had to be a dream. She concentrated hard, pushing the trails of tears from her face.

I'm stronger than this. I'm a dominatrix.

No, she heard Narcissa say, you're just a girl.

Hermione bunched her hands into fists, and willed herself to focus, to get rid of all those images of the sick and needy, quailing at her touch. I am Hermione Granger, she thought firmly, and I am going to save the world.

Right after I have a little cry.

She burst into tears, and was still weeping by the time Harry found her. He'd come over one of the pale mounds on the horizon; he looked shocked, as if he'd seen a ghost. Behind him, he dragged a silvery looking sword.


She fell against him, and sobbed on his chest. "What the hell is happening?" she mumbled. "I saw – I saw – Voldemort killed Viktor – or – I killed him. I don't know, Harry.."

"It's a game," said Harry, firmly. "I saw some pretty horrible things too, myself. But none of it is real. He's just trying to scare us."

"Are you sure?"

"I'm positive.. oh. Shit." Harry slapped his forehead.


"Never mind. Just something I said to Lucius a while ago." He frowned. "Tell me what happened to you?"

They were in the middle of comparing notes when Draco clambered weakly over the pale mound. He was disheveled and stumbling; when they looked up he winced, and tried to hide his face with the scales he held.

"Noo," he mumbled.

Harry stepped towards him, but was distracted by a sudden thump to his left. Ron Weasley had apparently just fallen from the sky. The red-head grunted, face down on the ground; the earth was warm, and almost doughy to the touch. After a few confused moments, he struggled to his feet, aware of the others' eyes on him.

"What?" he challenged them, gruffly. "Like that's never happened to you before – unk," Ron added, as Draco flung himself at his chest.

As Draco sniveled into Ron's shirt, Ron met Harry's eyes.

"When this is over," said Harry, grimly, "I'm going to kick the seven shades of shit out of you, Weasley."

"Actually, you probably won't," said Ron. He tried to shift his shirt a little, so Draco would only get snot on the already grimey parts.

"Oh, won't I?" said Harry, raising an eyebrow.

"Of course you won't," said Hermione, sighing. "You're a skinny short guy with glasses and he's probably twice your weight and could floor you before you made a move."

"Listen to the lady," Ron agreed.

"I could wait until you're asleep," Harry hazarded.

"Then I'll sleep with dragons," said Ron.

Even Draco looked up at that.

"I mean – in their enclosures. So they can protect – oh, for goodness sake." Ron pressed a hand to his forehead. "You're sick, all of you. Especially you," he added, a finger jabbing toward Hermione.

"Why? Because I slept with Lucius?" Hermione snapped.

"Things I don't want to know about my father's sex life, number 87," Draco mumbled. He withdrew slightly from Ron's chest, shot Harry an apologetic look, and then squeezed back against Ron. "So – is it over, yet?" he asked.

"Not bloody half," said Harry, still glaring at Ron.

"Oh, keep your dick out of it," Hermione snapped, losing her patience with the three of them. The image of Viktor dying was still fresh on her mind.

"Tell that to Ron," Harry growled.

"I resent being called an it," said Draco.

"I resent being cheated on," Harry snapped.

"Hey. Shit happens."

"Stop fucking saying that," Harry screamed, lunging for him. Hermione grabbed him by the elbow, and swung him around; she'd built up a fair bit of muscle herself, in her dominatrix years. "On your knees, slut," she hissed into Harry's face, and Harry – found himself obeying.

Hermione patted his head. "Good boy," she said. She turned to the others. "Now, let's work this out. As far as I can tell – we've become, well. Famine, War, Death and Pestilence. Only I don't know what that means. I guess we've got to do something important, though."

"I suppose with names like that we could start a rock band," said Draco, thoughtfully. And Ron stepped on his foot. "Ow! What?" Draco muttered, bitterly. "As if you'd have any better ideas, Weasley."

"I kinda do, actually. Your father spoke to me. When I was up there, floating. He explained the whole ‘embodiment’ deal, too. Seems like while we're still around, people can have wars, and be sick, and the like. But when we're gone, they can't. Because we're the real thing. Eh. Am I making any sense to you?"

"No more than usual," Harry grumbled.

Hermione ignored Harry. "I understand. What else did he say?"

"Oh. Something about Voldemort not being able to kill me until it's over. Because to kill the universe, you gotta still have death. Or – well. He started screaming, and I started screaming, and then –"

"Things I don't want to know about my fathers sex life, number 88," said Draco.

Ron stepped on his foot again, harder. Draco whimpered.

"Serves you bloody right," Harry said.

"Skinny weedy guy, glasses, versus the almighty wrath of the Weasley," Draco snapped at him. "Just remember who you're talking to."

"I know exactly who I'm talking to," Harry shot back, getting to his feet. "An equally weedy little blonde who's so scared of breaking his nails he doesn't buy clothes with a zipper."

"That is so not true."

"It so is."

"You've a mouth like an asshole, Harry Potter. Every time you open it, it spews shit," Draco shrieked.

"Gosh. I see now why our sex life leaves so much to be desired," Harry retorted.

"Oh, so I'm not good enough for you, now?"

"No. You're a bloody waste of my time. Why I ever –"

The two were now standing opposite each other, hurling insults. Hermione looked sideways at Ron, and made a gesture. Ron nodded, and followed her across the white and slightly squishy earth until they couldn't hear the two bitch.

"Kinda sad, isn't it," said Ron.

"They've gotten worse," said Hermione.

"Zipper. Good grief."

"Tell me about it."


"Anyway. About the Apocalypse." Hermione returned to the matter at hand. "I think I understand what Lucius was trying to say. See – you're the key to all this. As Death – Voldemort is powerless to end the universe with you still about, and so the only way to stop him, the only way to win the game is to – remove you from the picture."

Ron gave her a look.

"And how do you propose we do that?" he asked, quietly.

"I guess – if Death – well, hides –" Hermione said, lamely. She looked at the ground beneath her feet. "Look. Ron – this is all an illusion. You wouldn't really be dead. It'd just be –"

"You're sure of that, are you?" Ron challenged. "What proof do you have? In truth, you don't know how real any of this is. It all looks pretty bloody solid to me." He stubbed a toe against the ground.

"Think of the universe, Ron," Hermione pleaded.

"The universe, my ass. What the hell did it ever do for me?"

"You aren't taking this seriously!"

"You're encouraging me to commit suicide! How bloody seriously should I take that?"

They were interupted by Draco, who was fleeing Harry. Evidently the two hadn't quite settled their fight. Harry was snarling curses as he stumbled along the ground – Draco a good way away from him. "Eee!" Draco was shrieking; though he did look, Hermione noticed, rather pleased at being chased. He dashed past them. As Harry ran after him, bringing up the rear and waving his sword in a menacing fashion, Hermione stuck out her foot.

Harry landed in a muddle of elbows and knees and glasses. Draco puffed to a halt some metres away, and smirked.

"Hah. Serves –you- right, now," he said, then paused. "Oh – dear. You didn't cut anything off yourself with your sword, did you?"

Harry grunted, and rolled onto his back. He opened his mouth to make a scathing retort when he froze, his face fixed in a grimace. Hermione followed his gaze, turning her head toward the sky.

The sun, heavy and red, had a slit down the centre, Hermione saw, for the first time. Just like one of Voldemort's eyes. She swallowed thickly, and turned to view the place where they were standing. The night sky was interupted by five white pillars, and the soft, crevaced surface of the land –

Oh my gods, she thought, fear siezing her. All this time, we've been walking in the centre of Voldemort's palm.

"End Game," said Voldemort – his voice was so loud Hermione's ears rang with the reverberations of it. "You lose."


"Weasley. Fucking.. Weasley," Lucius whispered. Lying on his back within the circle, his fingers of his remaining hand were clamped over the bleeding stump of his arm. His wand sat an inch before him, on the other side of the circle – Lucius didn't dare to venture his other hand out and risk Voldemort severing it, too. The pain was a dull throb now, but the flow didn't seem likely to ease up.

I'm dying, Lucius thought clearly, tilting his head slowly towards Narcissa's prone form. His vision was blurring at the edges – as he'd heard it did, just before death.


She didn't move.

"Narcissa.." Lucius breathed thickly. "I own you.. still.."


Draco had thrown himself into Ron's arms as Voldemort spoke; Harry simply lay there, too stunned to even make a protest.

"War, Famine, Pestilence, Death," Voldemort mused. "And you couldn't destroy me –"

Hermione looked to Ron, desperately. "Ron – please," she whispered. "You know what you have to do. Please – I'm begging you."

Ron ignored her, and slipped a protective arm around Draco's body.

"Ron –"

"What can Ron do?" Harry asked, pulling himself to his feet. "That he hasn't already fucking done.."

"He's the only one who can stop this," Hermione snapped. "For the gods sake, I'll do it myself.."

She stopped, staring at the sky between the pillars. The stars were falling from the sky, plummeting past the boundary of Voldemort's palm, and vanishing. A small, brittle sun shone there, too, it's light eclipsed by the great orb of Voldemort's eye, and as Hermione watched it crumbled on one of the tips of his fingers. A liquid burst from it, red as blood, and flowed down to fill the lines of the hand, glossy ruby rivers..

Overhead, Voldemort boomed: "War. And I have to say – this revenge has been a long time in coming, Potter."

Harry swallowed, tearing his eyes from the sight of his boyfriend pressed so tightly against the body of his best friend. Hermione thought she heard him say, "..I've got nothing else to lose, anyway.." and then Voldemort blew. A gust of icy air swept across the surface of the pale palm, causing the rivers to ripple. It gained momentum as it travelled towards them, and Hermione didn't have time to run; she braced herself for the worst.

But the wind didn't touch her. It simply gripped Harry where he stood, and tore him away from them – the sword clattering to the earth. He screamed; Hermione saw his glasses fall, sparkling small and tiny in the air; and then he disappeared over the edge of Voldemort's palm, into the blank and starless void.

"Harry!" The three of them yelled it in unison, and Draco let out a hollow, wounded sob, and closed his eyes.

"You can't let this go on!" Hermione shrieked, turning on Ron. "You have to make this stop! Please! We'll all die, if you don't –"

"Pestilence," said Voldemort, and blew.

The wind rose again. It struck Hermione so hard that she thought she felt her legs break – an intense agony. She struggled, desperately, flailing in mid-air as she was pushed towards the edge. Her scalp bled as the crown fell from head; Hermione raised her hands to her face, to protect them against the storm.

Oh.. shit, she thought.

And fell.


I could have stopped it, Ron thought. I could have stopped them both dying. I could have – I lost my two closest friends. It's – my fault. No shit happens, no whatever – it was me.

And I was supposed to be the hero.

"He killed her! Ron. Ron! For the gods sake, do what you're going to do! I promise I'll never make fun of your poor family again! I won't ever make a pun again! Just – Ron!" Draco was beating his hands against Ron's chest. "Save me, you fucking git! I don't care any more. Please!"

Voldemort laughed – a horrible, sick sound that made the earth tremble.

"Ron! Please!" Draco wailed, dropping back, and almost tripping over Harry's sword. "I don't want to die."

It made him feel a little like the old Ron, seeing Draco there – Ron remembered how he'd taken care of Ginny in her first years at Hogwarts, and how he stuck up for Neville infront of Draco and his cronies, and how –

"Famine," said Voldemort.

Draco trembled, and cowered – then took off like a shot, running towards the safety of the four pillared fingers. Ron heard the wind whoosh after Draco, and he crouched, reaching instinctively for the sword. In a burst of frantic desperation, he tried to slice through the wind itself – and nearly lost the sword in the strength of the gust. Offbalanced, he stumbled to his knees, very nearly gutting himself in the process.

"Ron..!" Draco was still running. Even as Ron watched, the man was picked up by the wind of Voldemort's breath, and thrown over the tips of the pillar-like fingers. And then –

"Just me," said Ron, aloud. "It's always just me left."

He stared up, into Voldemort's unblinking eye. He was shaking – a rage was overtaking him, something primal he couldn't contain. His mind refused to come to grips with the reality of his friends' demises – all he knew was the anger, the simple, livid anger – and it had been such a long time since Ron had ever felt truly angry..

"You killed Draco!" Ron yelled. "You bastard!"

"Yes," said Voldemort. "Yes I am."

Ron waved the sword; he'd never handled one before, and the thing was clumsy, a far cry from the delicate weight of his wand. He didn't know what to do, or how to hurt Voldemort – he slammed the sword into the Dark Lord's palm, but it was like hitting rubber. The sword jarred in his hands, rebounding.

"You.. you.. what the fuck do I do," Ron whispered.

He thought of his family then – Charlie and Ginny and the twins and Bill and Percy and his parents. Not them. He couldn't..

He got to his feet, unsteadily. He was aware Voldemort was still laughing at him; he shook his fist at the sky, knowing what a ridiculous figure he must seem, a tiny ant in Voldemort's massive hand. A shower of dying stars spluttered on the horizon, and then were still.

Shit happens, thought Ron.

Shit.. just.. fucking happens.

Shit just..

Ron touched the tip of the sword to the approximate location of his heart.

Not to my bloody family, it doesn't.

Not to my bloody friends.

"It's almost over," Voldemort was whispering, in that serpentine slur of his; the huge red eyes beady and repugnant. "Almost.."

He was supposed to be the hero – Ron Weasley, Ron the Rogue. The saviour of wizard and witchkind; and Muggle-kind too. Wasn't that the hero-deal? The six-man of the dragon's legend and all that babble; he leant a little harder on the point of the sword. Hermione had said it was all an illusion; she'd said this was the only way.. and Lucius had been so sure too..

Ron gulped, and braced himself for his own suicidal blow.

He wasn't sure if it would work. But, on the last lap of Armaggedon, Ron sure as hell figured it was worth a try.

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