Title:The Fog of War
Summary: Things are not what they seem on either side of the war. Sometimes self interest can save the day.
Rating: R for mature themes
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Author’s Noted: I tried to incorporate some of bewarethesmirk’s prompt, in that this fic is set during the war and has an element of mystery in it, but the blasted boys would not get nekkid without it seeming contrived no matter how much I coaxed them.
Many thanks to my betas C and S, and to the mods for their endless patience with me.
Climbing down the steep steps to the lower level of the tunnels, the boy paused in the deep shadows created by the overhead torches to ensure he’s not being followed. Once he was certain that he was alone he continued toward the murmur of distant voices. Moving through the gloom with a surefootedness borne of experience, he soon reached the area that housed both soldiers recently returned from being on patrol outside, and travellers passing through this sector.
For the most part, the soldiers lived separately from the rest of the tunnel complex’s population, only mixing with the long term residents when off duty, or recovering from their injuries. But the boy had sharp eyes, and knew that if he watched the comings and goings in the upper communal areas, and how much food was being produced in the kitchens, he could predict when a patrol, or a group of travellers, had arrived. And one day, if he was very lucky, he might just spot the great Harry Potter as he passed through to continue the fight elsewhere, or on his way to the safety of Hogwarts.
From his restricted vantage point outside the soldier’s dormitory, he could only see the distorted shadows of several people moving around on the rough-hewn walls. Curiosity getting the better of him, he rounded the corner to get a better look at the room’s occupants. Moving as one, six heads snapped around in his direction, their gazes rooting him to the spot. One of the soldiers, a tallish man with fair hair, dark eyes, and a friendly face, moved forward and hunkered down before him.
“Well, who do we have here?”
The boy swallowed and tried to speak, but his mouth was suddenly dry and his tongue wouldn’t cooperate.
“Cat got your tongue?” The soldier asked gently.
The boy heard the soft laughter of the other men and women in the room, and his face burned with embarrassment. The soldier ignored his colleagues, and smiled at the boy. “My name’s Jimmy. What’s yours?”
Finally finding his voice, he whispered, “Adam,” and then repeated louder, “My name is Adam.”
Jimmy stood and held out his hand, Adam tentatively took hold. “Pleased to meet you, Adam,” he said, whilst shaking his hand. Adam smiled back at Jimmy, before peering around him to get a glimpse of the other occupants of the dormitory.
“Would you like to meet my friends?” Jimmy asked.
Adam’s eyes widened like saucers. “Can I? Really?” he replied in an awed tone.
Jimmy stepped to one side, so that Adam could enter the room. Gesturing toward the others, Jimmy said, “Everyone this is Adam. Adam, this is everyone.” A chorus of greetings rang out and Adam grinned broadly in return. A taller man with red hair moved his pack off a stool next to his bunk bed and beckoned Adam over.
“I’m Fred. Come and sit here, we won’t bite.” Adam suddenly shrank back and hid behind Jimmy.
“Bad joke, Fred,” scolded a woman with blonde hair, slapping him on the shoulder, as she passed him on her way to the showers.
“Sorry, Katie. Didn’t think. Its okay, Adam, we’re all human here.”
Adam looked up at Jimmy, who nodded. “The wards wouldn’t let us through if we were anything but human.” Adam moved away from Jimmy and sat down on the offered stool. He looked up at the soldiers, while they moved around the dormitory, with wide eyes.
“Have you… have you seen them?” he asked of no-one in particular.
“Aye, we’ve seen them,” replied a grim voice.
“Now then, Seamus, don’t you be giving the lad nightmares,” said Jimmy.
Not to be put off, Adam continued, “What are they like? Is it true they can fly and tear your throat open with long claws, before drinking all your blood?”
“Good grief, child! Who have you been talking to?” said the other woman in the group.
Adam shrugged. “It’s what I’d heard.”
“No,” said Fred, “it’s not quite true. They do feed at night, but they cannot fly. As for what they look like, I’ve never stayed around long enough for a close inspection. And like Jimmy said, they can’t get down here so you’re completely safe.”
Adam looked thoughtful for a moment. “I wish I could see the stars. I’ve only seen them through the Viewerscope in the observation room. I’ve never been outside at night, only sometimes during the day for food. What’s it like?”
Fred sat on his bunk next to Adam, and swept his arm in a broad arc. “Imagine the deepest black stretching as far as the eye can see, covered with thousands of sparkling diamonds.”
“It sounds beautiful.”
“It is. Hopefully you’ll get to see it for yourself, one day.”
“We’re going to Hogwarts very soon. My mum says our name is near the top of the list for the next Port Key. I can’t wait to see it, to be outside again. Have any of you been there?”
“We were at school there, before the war,” said Seamus with a grin. “It’s a fantastic place.”
“Wow! You all went to Hogwarts? Do you… um, know Harry Potter?”
Fred grinned. “Yes, we do, but Jimmy here knows him much better than most. Don’t you, Jimmy?”
Adam turned his eager gaze on Jimmy. “Will you tell me about him?”
Jimmy smiled, and ruffled Adam’s hair. “Okay. Just a little, then you need to be off to bed, it’s late and even small soldiers need their rest.”
Draco stood outside Honeydukes, eyeing the corpses littering the ground before him with distaste. He wished the cleaning crew would hurry up and arrive, so that he could check the integrity of the main street without having to step over blood-drained bodies, and turn in his report on time. Draco didn’t want to be on the receiving end of yet another Cruciatus because the increasingly unpredictable Dark Lord was in a snit about something or other.
Turning left, he made his way up the silent street toward Zonko’s. He was about to step over a woman and enter the shop, when he spotted several figures rounding the corner from the direction of the Hog’s Head. Stalking toward them he shouted, ”Where the bloody hell have you lot been? It’s not in my job description to work in these conditions. I’ll be reporting you to the Dark Lord if it happens again.”
“Shove it, Malfoy,” said Theodore Nott, glaring at Draco, “Your high and mighty airs count for nothing these days. You’re at the bottom of the pecking order for the Dark Lord’s favour.”
“At least I didn’t let Harry Potter slip through my fingers,” Draco said, sneering as he drew level with Nott.
“No,” said Nott, raising his wand slightly, “because you let someone else do your work for you, you bloody coward.”
“Fuck you, Nott, that was years ago,” growled Draco. “I don’t have time for this.” He shoved past Nott and headed toward the pub. Behind him he could hear repeated Evanescoes as the cleaning crew vanished the corpses to the disposal area, leaving everything spotless for the next group passing through.
The Hog’s Head was in an excellent state of repair, Draco noted this on his inventory, and completely empty of all forms of life. He raised the wards to prevent anything else from seeking shelter there, and moved on to the next building to repeat the process. So far, it looked as though the vampires the Dark Lord had recruited from Eastern Europe to boost the ranks, following several spectacular victories by the side of light, were keeping to their side of the agreement.
Draco had grudgingly agreed at the time that it had been a particularly cunning plan. The Ministry had banned Vampires from the wizarding world over four hundred years ago, even with willing donors, because of their reaction to something inherent to pure-bloods. Voldemort promised an unlimited food supply from half-bloods, Muggle-borns and Muggles, when he won.
Between the Death Eaters and vampires, the population that supported the other side had been decimated, Hogsmeade laid to waste, and the population that had moved to Hogwarts found themselves under a protracted siege. Victory seemed imminent, until the surviving anti-Voldemort population in the open countryside, and Order members seemed to disappear. Information soon passed through the network of spies that worked for Voldemort that the remaining had gone underground, into a connected series of tunnels protected by a powerful series of wards that no Death Eater or vampire could Apparate through. The only weakness in their defence was the need to be above ground to enter Hogwarts. And Voldemort exploited it to the full.
Shuddering at the mere thought of the vile creatures, Draco couldn’t stop himself from casting a precautionary sweeping charm around himself for good measure, even though it was mid-morning. One could never be too careful with the undead.
A little over an hour later, he had completed his sweep of the village and reset all the wards. Taking a deep breath, he Apparated to the vampires’ compound housing for the final part of his inspection: to check that they were not swelling their numbers with victims from The Hunt. Draco was certain that he saw a flicker of surprise in the Dark Lord’s eyes each time he returned from the compound hale and hearty. Well, maybe not that, but certainly healthy, and in possession of all eight pints of blood.
In fact, Draco was now of the opinion that Voldemort was more than just perverse, he was completely psychopathic, taking great pleasure in inflicting one of numerous painful curses, or even death, upon any of his followers who failed to please. In his early days with the Dark Lord, Draco had watched with horror as Augustus Rookwood had writhed in endless agony on the floor, before he died, for failing to find Harry Potter at Grimmauld Place once the Fidelius Charm had ceased to exist. Things were now much worse, and it was time to get out. He had discussed it with Blaise. They would throw themselves at the mercy of the Chosen One, if they could find him, and barter their lives in exchange for information about the true purpose of the Portkey rooms, and the village.
The way station was carved out of solid rock, with steps at one end, behind a barrier, leading to the Portkey departure rooms. Its walls had been painted white, with scenes of the Founders doing magical deeds running around the top in a frieze, and brightly lit with many torches. Civilians and a small group of soldiers were milling here and there, chatting amiably while they waited to go through the barrier that led to the departure rooms for Hogwarts.
“There he is, Mum. Look.” Adam waved frantically, trying to catch the attention of Jimmy and the other soldiers through the crowd. “He knows Harry Potter.”
Adam’s mother, a small mousy haired woman who looked older than her thirty years, held Adam’s younger sister firmly on her hip and smiled tiredly at her excited boy. “Yes, dear. I’m sure he does.”
Adam bounced on his toes. “Can I go and talk to him? Please, mum, please.”
Before she could answer, an official behind the barrier cast a Sonorus Charm. “Would all passengers waiting to depart for Hogwarts form an orderly queue, and have your travel pass ready for inspection.”
The milling crowd slowly morphed into a shuffling queue, ready to pass through. Adam could see that Jimmy was several people in front of him, but his mother wouldn’t let him join the soldier until their travel documents had been checked. Once at the barrier, Adam waited with growing impatience while their paper work was scrutinised. He followed his mother through an arch of flickering blue light that would, she told him, register his magical signature. It made his skin tingle all over, and he giggled.
Running over to the next queue Jimmy had been directed to, Adam took hold of his hand. “Hello sport,” Jimmy said, “where’s your mum?”
“She’s behind us, with my sister. Tell me more about Hogwarts, please.”
From the queue for the second Portkey, Fred smiled to himself as he watched ‘Jimmy’ talk animatedly to the boy with ease, until they entered the first Port Key room and disappeared from view.
Shaking his shoulder roughly, Blaise said, “Draco, wake up. We’ve been summoned to the viewing room.”
Draco rolled out of bed and cast a straightening charm on his clothes. “Again? Isn’t bad enough I have to deal with the aftermath, without watching the fucking process?”
“He’s in one of his glorification moods, and you know what happens to people who are not there to witness it,” replied Blaise.
Draco rolled his eyes, but declined to comment further in case he was overheard. It wouldn’t surprise him in the least if their sleeping quarters were subjected to some form of listening spell that would catch out those less enamored with the cause than they should be. Following Blaise, they soon came to the viewing room where Voldemort was holding court in the centre, standing by a huge clear sphere that revolved in the air, showing different aspects of Hogsmeade. The more senior Death Eaters were closer to the sphere and waited with an air of breathless anticipation for the slaughter to begin.
From where he stood, Draco could just make out the shapes of people running in the shadows from building to building, trying desperately to open the doors with their wands, now rendered useless by the dampening field that surrounded the village, or by sheer brute force. From the looks of terror on their faces he knew they had unexpected company, and the The Hunt was about to begin. Draco glanced at Blaise, to see that his friend was grim faced as he forced himself to watch the carnage. One turned away at one’s own peril.
He didn’t know why but his eye was repeatedly drawn to a man, a soldier, and a small boy. Draco watched with a growing sense of admiration as the soldier showed more courage than the rest. He repeatedly fought off several vampires with his bare hands, all the while trying to protect a young boy. Draco didn’t recognise him, but couldn’t shake off the idea that he seemed familiar in the way that he fought. Draco had trained his eyes to go out of focus for long periods of time, so to all intents and purposes it looked as though he was riveted to the scenes played out before him, and he forced himself to lose sight of the man and boy, before the inevitable. He hadn’t yet learned how to cast a wandless Silencio, but he was working on it. Draco knew that he would wake later that night drenched in sweat, and choking on bile, with the screams of the victims ringing in his ears.
Draco missed his inspection tour the following morning, being sent to oversee the processing of the pure-bloods that had been separated out at the way station. The program was straight forward enough: isolate into separate cells, stun, and wait for a trained Obliviator to modify their memories. Draco’s job was to check the cells and identify as many individuals as he could. He knew he was looking at Fred Weasely, even though the man’s back was facing him. Draco hurried on to the next cell. Those who did not respond well to retraining were sent to the research centre to help the cause in other, more creative ways. Draco was surprised to find that he hoped Fred wouldn’t follow his brother, George, there.
It was another four weeks before Draco found himself on inspection duty in the village. The clean up hadn’t taken long, as there were considerably less victims, leaving Draco to wonder if the other side had realised something was amiss, despite no longer having owls for communication between Hogwarts and the outside world. For once Draco was pleased to be out of the base. It was becoming increasingly difficult not to fall victim to Voldemort’s worsening mood, since the news of Harry Potter’s disappearance had filtered through their network of spies three weeks ago. No amount of searching from either side had discovered anything other than the fact that his last known position was with a patrol, bound for Hogwarts.
The sound of groaning wood snapped Draco out of his reverie, but it was too late. The hatch to the cellars of the Hog’s Head gave way beneath his feet and he dropped like a stone into the darkness below. Slowly opening his eyes, Draco wasn’t sure how long he’d been unconscious, but he was now immersed in total blackness indicating that night had fallen. Bloody Fuck! Draco thought, feeling around for where he’d dropped his wand. He put his arms out and tried to sit up but pain, hot and sharp, shot up his right arm, and left him shaking and gasping for breath. Letting out a long groan, he rolled onto his other side and pushed up on his left arm, while attempting to keep his right arm still.
From the darkness, Draco thought he heard a sound. Fighting the urge to panic, he took a deep breath and held it. There it was again, a snuffling sort of noise, as though someone was sniffing the air in short bursts. Breathing as quietly as possible, he felt around again for his wand, and almost cried with relief when his fingers closed around the smooth surface. Not sure what terror awaited him he cried, “Lumos!” A bright beam of light shone from the end of his wand, harsh and clear. Blinking rapidly, he lifted his wand above his head and saw it, a shockingly emaciated creature lying on its side, completely dazzled by the light flooding the cellar from his wand.
Draco let out a sound that was a either a relieved sob, or a bark of laughter, he wasn’t sure. He did know that he could defeat this thing, whatever it was, if it tried to attack him. Sliding closer, with his wand held out in front of him, he examined the stationary being. The filthy, pathetic creature was breathing shallowly, and trying to open its mouth to bare its fangs at him. Draco raised his wand higher, preparing to stun the vampire, so that he could get himself out of his current predicament, when he noticed the mark on its forehead. He leaned closer and moved the matted hair out of the way with the tip of his wand. This time he did laugh. He had found Harry Potter in the cellar of the Hog’s Head pub, right under the Dark Lord’s nose, while up above Death Eaters and Order members alike, searched high and low for him.
Draco knew there was no going back. Ignoring the throbbing pain in his arm, he pulled a slim knife out of the side of his boot, nicked his wrist and held it over the vampire’s mouth. With his other hand he gripped the matted hair tightly to stop the creature turning its head away. In its dazed state it put up little resistance, and was soon swallowing the warm blood trickling down the back of its throat from Draco’s wrist. He had no idea why Potter was in this state, but he imagined that the noble Gryffindor would’ve been horrified to discover what he had become, and refuse to partake in the delights of the hunt, instead electing to starve himself to death. He took the decision to lower his arm, allowing Potter to latch on and feed quicker. Draco wanted to get out of there as soon as possible, before Lady Luck farted in his face, and they were discovered.
Expecting to have to stun Potter to stop him from feeding, he was somewhat surprised when Potter pulled away and focused his slightly glowing eyes on him. Opening his parched lips again, he croaked, “Malfoy?”
“The one and only, Potter.” Draco knew the moment realization had hit home, by the pained expression on Potter’s face.
“What have you done?” he groaned. “I didn’t want this. Not this.”
“Too bad, Potter. I know a lot of people will be very happy to see you. We can thrash out the whats and whys later. Can you stand?”
“Why? Can’t take me to your Lord lying down?” Potter attempted to snarl, but it came out as a murmur.
“No, you prat. Because we will only have a few seconds, once I’ve disabled the dampening field, to Apparate to Hogwarts and beg entrance before an army of Death Eaters is upon us.”
Draco helped Potter to his feet. Potter slipped one arm around Draco’s waist, ready for Side-along Apparition. “Why are you doing this?”
“Let’s just say I have a vested interest in saving your life, and have a few bargaining chips with which to save my own.”