Toward End Game

Chapter Ten

By Libertine

       

Ron died.

It was a lot more painful than he'd expected it to be. A lot more blood and babbling incoherencies and gasping for breath. A lot less dignified than a hero's death should be, he felt. Still. It wasn't as if he could go back and have another crack at it.

He coughed blood, he cried, he scrabbled.

And then he died.

Nothing happened for quite a long time.

       

"Ron. Ron!"

Ron opened one bleary eye. "You, sir," he said, his tongue thick in his mouth, "are not an angel."

"And you, sir, are no gentleman," snapped Draco. He tugged at the Ron's shirt; Ron's eyes rolled back in his head. He felt too woozy to concentrate on anything. He mumbled, "What happened?"

"We're assuming you killed yourself," said Lucius, dryly. "You did take your time about it, too. You beat Voldemort his life was forfiet, and time was reset accordingly, in order to avoid having to deal with an embarrassing little incontinuity such as the universe suddenly being almost destroyed, and then returning to normality."

Ron grunted, and rubbed his eyes. He was on the floor, still he saw the dull edge of Lucius' circle beside his head. "How long have I been "

"About two hours," said Draco. "You missed quite a lot, really. We got to see the stars rise again, and Voldemort die an agonising death."

"And Harry slapping Draco and storming out, vowing never to return," said Lucius.

"Of course, he was so furious with me that he accidentally stormed into a closet," said Draco.

"The irony wasn't lost on me," said Lucius, smirking.

"I should follow him," said Draco. "But "

"But, you have to finish fixing your father's arm," said Lucius. "Or what's left of it. I don't want to imagine how many galleons it will cost to be healed completely. Perhaps I should simply get a live stork attached instead."

"What?" said Ron, sitting up abruptly.

Draco shot a glance towards his father, and then leant in, conspiratorially, to whisper to Ron. "I had to cast a lot of anesthesia spells on father in order to stop the pain," he murmured. "He's slightly out of it at the moment."

He rose, padding over to Lucius, who was leaning against Narcissa's legs the woman was still unconscious. Lucius' left arm was gone, from what Ron could see; the empty sleeve of his robe was in tatters. So that's what he was screaming about, Ron thought; and then lurched forwards as a spell of nausea overtook him. He gasped into his knees.

Ron still wasn't sure what had happened, after he'd thrust the blade into his body. And despite Lucius' smirking confidence, he had a feeling that the man wasn't completely sure himself. Perhaps this was how End Game always concluded, when the players won. Ron had imagined more in the way of streamers and adoring fans; he was a hero, after all. Though neither Lucius or Draco had mentioned it, at least not in those terms.

Well, what did you expect? Ron sighed, grimly. You're still Ron. And it was either die then or die later. Nothing really heroic about it at all.

Best to do what you always do, he thought. Chalk it up to experience. And move the hell along.

"Where's Hermione?" he asked.

"With Harry," said Draco, pausing in his healing spells for a second to glance in Ron's direction. "Why'd you ask?"

"..just wondering." Ron was moderately surprised at the coolness with which Draco was acting; it was hard to believe that this calm, collected Draco was the same man who'd flung himself at Ron's chest and demanded that Ron save him. But the others had had a while to recuperate to this.. this new reality, or whatever it was. "Voldemort's definately dead, now?" Ron tried.

"As a general rule, anyone who spurts fireworks from every orifice is either dead, or very soon will be," said Lucius. "That nice Veela Narcissa and I met in Paris being the exception that proves the rule."

"Things I didn't want to know about your sex " Draco began.

"Don't start with me, Draco," Lucius warned. "It's been a hard day."

"Right. Sorry."

"And the penguins aren't helping, either." Lucius closed his eyes.

Draco stood a few minutes later, after tying the ends of his father's sleeve together, so they wouldn't get in the way. He returned to Ron's side, bending to make sure Ron was alright. "Ron?" he said.

"Mm?"

"Thanks. By the way."

"For what?" Ron feigned ignorance. "Oh, the saving the universe thing? No big deal. Do it all the bloody time."

"Can't make it up to you in any way, can I?" Draco grinned, suddenly. He sat himself astride Ron's knees,  and rested his palms on Ron's thighs.

"Yeah," said Ron. "Actually, you can."

Draco purred, curling his shoulders. "Mm?"

"You can get me a sandwich," said Ron. "I'm bloody starving."

       

"So Voldemort's dead. But I didn't do it," said Harry. He was kicking a sneakered foot against the wall of the manor. "All my life, that was what I was supposed to do, you know. Everyone expected me to fight the last battle with Voldemort. But what happened? I'm the one who got tossed out first; I didn't have a chance. I should have done something. I mean anyone but bloody Ron saving the day, I could have dealt with. But dammit, Hermione."

"There wasn't anything you could do," said Hermione, sighing. She'd been repeating this refrain for the past hour, but it didn't seem to have sunk in yet.

"I could have killed him," Harry muttered.

"Voldemort was too powerful," said Hermione.

"I don't mean him," Harry snapped. "I mean Ron. He stole my thunder. I fucking hate it when people do that. And seeing Draco running to him, not me the little bastard. The day after we get back together, he's off fucking Weasley."

Hermione wondered, not for the first time, how Draco and Harry's minds really worked. They both seemed completely unable to grasp the enormity of what had happened; they were still bickering about their pathetic little relationship. Or what ever sufficed as a relationship for them. Neither one trusted the other, neither one seemed to give a damn, and yet both could spend hours bitching about it.

"Does he have any idea what that does to me?" Harry was saying. "I refuse to cope with his shit. I absolutely refuse to. If he wants Ron he can bloody have Ron. I'm not going to stand in their way." He paused. "Do you think he still loves me?" he asked. "I mean really?"

Hermione considered faking a siezure. Anything, to get away from Harry's idiocy.

"Oh gods. You think it's hopeless too," said Harry, when she didn't reply. "I might as well throw myself out of a window. Or stab myself with a sword. Maybe he'd notice me then."

"Is that the time?" said Hermione, looking at her wrist. "I really should be off doing something else. Right now, actually."

Harry stared at her. "You aren't wearing a watch, Hermione," he said.

"I have a biological clock," said Hermione.

Harry stared at her some more.

"It's ticking," said Hermione.

"I see," said Harry, who didn't.

"So I should go. Unless " she gazed at him steadily.

"Unless what?"

"Unless you promise not to mention Draco's name for the next hour," she said.

Harry scuffed at the wall again. "Fine."

There was a prolonged silence, made all the more uncomfortable by Harry's valiant attempts to kick a hole through the manor.

"Well?" said Hermione.

Harry shrugged. "There just doesn't seem to be anything else to talk about," he muttered.

"Voldemort's dead! We survived his stupid game! We're alive. My gods, Harry there's plenty to talk about."

"Yeah. But I want to talk about.. You-Know-Who." Harry frowned. "And not that You-Know-Who. The other You-Know-Who. The You-Know-Who I was dating. Not the You-Know-Who who killed my "

"I understand," said Hermione, wearily. "Can you move over a little, please?"

"Eh? Why?" Harry looked up.

"I want to bang my head against the wall," said Hermione. "And I think I'm going to need a good run up for it, too."

       

Narcissa was stirring by the time Draco arrived with the sandwiches. The four of them sat in a half circle and ate in silence, using the unconscious Kaylena as a table. Narcissa looked ashamed of herself: Ron guessed she didn't know half of what had happened, and also figured that Lucius probably wouldn't tell her. Her fingers continually shifted to touch the flayed ribbons of material which hung from Lucius' shoulder, but she never said a word.

Draco wolfed down three sandwiches, and then went off looking for more house elves to bully into making food.

"I've never seen him eat so fast," said Narcissa, quietly.

"I told Tom he'd give Draco a complex," Lucius muttered.

Narcissa glanced across at Ron, and frowned, slightly. "Why is there a Weasley in our house, love?" she asked Lucius.

"He's a friend of Draco's now, apparently," Lucius replied. "And yes, my dear. Friend, inverted commas."

Narcissa wrinkled her nose. "He'll be sleeping with squibs, next," she said. "At least Potter's only half mud-blood."

"Hello," said Ron, crossly. "I am here, you know. I do have ears. I can hear what you're saying."

"At least it's not deaf," said Narcissa, to Lucius.

"After a few days with Draco, I bet he'll wish he is," Lucius remarked.

"I just saved the universe," said Ron, glumly, picking the salad out of his roll.

"Yes, dear," said the Malfoys, in perfect unison.

Ron grunted, and decided to take his roll elsewhere. He wasn't in the mood to put up with the Malfoy's grating condescension, especially after he'd saved both their lives. Though reflecting on it it had been Lucius who'd told him what to do, and so by proxy, it was probably Lucius who'd

"..bugger," said Ron. He stared across the room, and noticed a small motion by one of the bookshelves in the study.

A mouse, perhaps? Ron frowned. He wouldn't have expected the manor to be infested with vermin.

A faint sense of forboding crept into his mind. Lucius' wand was still lying on the floor, on the outskirts of the circle. Ron's fingers tiptoed slowly towards it; he lifted it, readying himself for just about anything.

"We'll have to see that nice man at the Ministry who took care of my last nose job," Narcissa was saying. "I'm sure he could reattach your arm without any problems."

"He was terribly expensive, though," said Lucius. "You'll have to haggle the price for me, my dear."

"Of course, love "

There was the sound of books tumbling off a shelf, and someone cursing under their breath. The Malfoys drew closer.

"Who's there?" Lucius called.

"..just me. Peter."

The familiar whine made Ron's stomach turn over. Wormtail stepped out from behind the bookshelves, his plump shoulders bowed; already grovelling. Lucius' expression twisted into a grimace of revulsion.

"Master Malfoy, sir," the man crooned. "You destroyed my Master; you are truly the most powerful wizard around. You do know that Voldemort bewitched me into following his terrible plans.. I had no part in it at all.. and if you would have me, sir, I would so long to join you as your right hand "

"Avera Kedavra."

Wormtail screamed, and exploded into a shower of sparks.

The Malfoys turned to look at Ron, who was sucking his hand: the rebound from the powerful spell and the unfamiliar and far stronger wand had singed his palm.

Lucius raised an eyebrow.

"What?" said Ron, his voice slightly muffled by his hand. "Sorry. Were you listening to that? My mistake."


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