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Midnight Duel, Midday Love

By Draco664

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Draco Malfoy clenched his eyes closed and waited while the pain in his chest faded from unbearable to merely excruciating. He knew he was going to die soon. Very soon.

The blood coming up into his mouth was a pinkish colour, almost like foam. He knew that this meant that the sharp pain when he breathed was from a rib sticking into his lung.

Voldemort knew this too. He had cast a few minor healing charms on Draco, not quite healing either the lung or rib, before torturing him again.

"Don't worry, my little dragon, the portkey will activate soon, bringing your rescuers here. Once they arrive they will be contained quickly and dealt with."

Draco gave the serpent-featured man a look of loathing. "You claim to be the greatest wizard of all time, yet a boy who hasn't finished school killed nearly all your minions and sent you running like a coward. You are nothing." he wheezed. Draco steeled himself for the response.

Surprisingly, Voldemort just laughed. "Ah, my little dragon. You'll soon see just how wrong you are. I am on the verge of attaining more power than even your father dreamed of."

At Draco's doubting look, Voldemort continued. "You sit there, a frown on your face. You will learn what it means to betray me."

Voldemort straightened and gestured towards the circle of diagrams etched into the floor in front of the altar Ginny was tied to. Draco felt truly ill looking at the patterns. As artwork, they were awful, unappealing to the viewer. Voldemort crouched and lovingly traced one long finger around the edges of a particularly gruesome pattern that vaguely reminded Draco of the nightmares he used to have.

"Today I shall summon a creature of pure shadow, one that makes the dementors look like butterflies. One that will obey my every command and feed on my enemies."

Voldemort stood and faced Draco. "To do so requires the most valuable gift a wizard can give."

Draco frowned. "His life?"

Voldemort snorted. "His magic."

Draco's eyes widened. "Macnair!"

Voldemort looked pleased. "Yes, my little dragon. Macnair. His Uncle was a disappointment in many ways, but this one wishes nothing more than to see me succeed." Voldemort's expression softened as he examined his memory. "When I presented my discovery of the recipe for the Serpent's Tears potion to my loyal followers, only one saw the potential of a willing imbiber. Every single one of the others simply coveted the power they could gain from ingesting another's power.

"You see, little one, if someone willingly drinks Serpent's Tears, their magic crystallises into this." Voldemort drew a fist-sized glass container from his robes, the tiny crystals within glimmering gently. "The very essence of magic. With it, I can span the universes themselves. Imagine having the power, the raw ability to tear a hole in the fabric of the world, reach into the lowest depths of hell, and bring back a raging demon."

Draco's already white face paled further.

"You shall be its first meal, my little dragon. I look forward to watching your expression as your body and soul are devoured before your eyes."

A whimpering caught Voldemort's attention. "Don't you worry either, Weasley." he said, turning to face the helpless girl. "You will be next. I intend to capture your final moments, to send your father a picture of his only daughter being devoured by a nightmare."

Wormtail appeared and bowed. "Master, the portkey will activate in moments."

Voldemort nodded. "Excellent. Well, Weasley, we shall see exactly who your father decided on sending to save you. I hope you will be able to assist in identifying the bodies." he said with a sneer.

The room fell silent, Voldemort waiting in anticipation, Draco and Ginny with dread. After a minute of tension, a flash and pop indicated the arrival of someone using a portkey.

A minute fraction of a second later, another, larger flash blinded those present. A glowing bubble now encircled the center of the room, enclosing the entire area around the arrival point in a prison of pure force.

Voldemort's expression of triumph faded as he saw exactly what he had caught.

"What do you mean, he's not expecting you? The ransom note specifically states that you are to go alone!" Sirius blurted.

Harry shook his head, still rummaging through his trunk at the foot of his bed in the sixth-year dorm. "Voldy was torturing her, she must have told him that she raped me. He is not expecting me now, he expected Draco to capture one of my friends. He thinks he only has the Minister's daughter. Now, he's preparing for a big bunch of aurors to appear." he replied.

Sirius closed his eyes tightly and grabbed both sides of his head in an effort to gather his thoughts. "You are not going!" he said for the tenth time.

"Try and stop me." said Harry.

Sirius looked furious. "I can, you know!"

"Not without condemning Mr. Weasley's daughter." Harry retorted, unwilling to let Ginny's name cause him distracting emotional turmoil.

"She raped you!" spat Sirius. "You don't need to risk your life for her."

"I'm not." said Harry. He finally added his daikatana to his belt, the long-bladed sword disappearing into a tiny, 2-inch long scabbard. "Look, you said that Dumbledore didn't want to punish her since that would cause Mr. Weasley to have to resign. If he loses his daughter, he won't be able to function properly. The ministry could collapse anyway."

Sirius growled deep in his throat. "Please Harry, don't go!"

Harry gave an exasperated sigh and looked directly into Sirius' eyes. "I'm sorry, Sirius. I have to."

"It's a trap!"

"I know." replied Harry calmly. "I saw it. I also know how to beat it." He shrugged his backpack over one shoulder. "I'm the only one who can."

"Harry, please-"

"No!" shouted Harry, his eyes blazing. "I've made up my mind. I also have a plan."

"What plan?"

Harry just looked at him. "Once I disappear, put on that ring that tracks my location. You should be able to find me then. I'll try to stay alive until you and the rest of the world get there."

Sirius had tears in his eyes. "I don't want to lose you again, Harry. It nearly killed me last time."

Harry grabbed Sirius in a tight hug. "I'll come back. You know it."

"If you don't, I'll haunt you in your next life."

Harry chuckled, and his laughter seemed to break the mood.

The pair made their way down to the Gryffindor common room, where both Dumbledore and McGonagall were waiting for them.

Dumbledore gravely handed Harry a sheet of parchment. "Here are the calculations you need, Harry. Is there anything I can say to dissuade you from your planned course of action?"

"No, you know that." he said, scanning the page.

Dumbledore nodded. "Then Madam Hooch is waiting for you at the main entrance. She has your broom. Good luck."

Harry nodded to him. Professor McGonagall's chin was trembling slightly, but her stern expression was stuck firmly in place. "I cannot condone this action." she announced, her voice uncharacteristically thick. "It is foolhardy, ill-thought out, and has an overwhelming probability of failure." She closed her eyes and swallowed.

"I therefore cannot think of anyone who would be more likely to succeed. Please be safe, Harry. And bring Ginny and Draco back home with you." she whispered.

Harry nodded. "I have the means to bring them back, professor." he said, showing her two small glass globes. "Professor Dumbledore gave me these. They are charmed specifically to Draco and, to, those two." he finished.

With a final nod, he turned and exited the tower, Sirius walking behind him.

The small gathering at the castle gates stood around nervously, waiting for the time the portkey would activate to approach. Harry passed his broom and backpack to Sirius. From inside his robes he passed his godfather a firework of Fred and George's design.

"Remember, light that with the command word on the side. Drop it in the backpack, then drop it a few seconds before the portkey on the straps activates." he said.

Molly Weasley looked up, still sniffling. "Aren't you going to fly your broom quickly to avoid the trap Harry?" she asked worriedly.

Harry shook his head. "The containment charm will activate almost instantly after the portkey activates. I need to be traveling faster than the top speed of my broom."

Several people in the group frowned. Snape, Molly, Madam Hooch and Moody all showed their confusion. "Then how?" the potion master asked. "How do you intend to escape the trap?"

Harry took a deep breath, and glanced one last time at the parchment Dumbledore had given him. "I need to be travelling around twice the speed of sound to ensure I escape the trap." he said.

Moody grunted. "That's impossible, Laddie."

Harry looked at him. "How many impossible things have I done?" he asked pointedly.

Moody's sour expression softened and he started chuckling. "All right then. Show us how."

Harry dropped the tip of his right wing, coming around in a wide half-circle. With his incredible avian eyes, he could make out Hogwarts easily, even though it was several kilometers away.

The comparatively tiny figure of Sirius on Harry's firebolt hovered in the air, a hundred meters up. At the sight of a red flare, Harry accelerated quickly but steadily towards the castle and his godfather.

As Harry broke the sound barrier, silence surrounded him. In his panoramic vision, he could see birds, insects and even squirrels thrown around in his wake as he tore over the Forbidden Forest.

Sirius dropped his backpack. Harry mentally calculated the angle he needed to be on to intercept it quickly, and minutely adjusted his course.

It took just three seconds for Harry to cover the required ground. The knuckles on his clenched talons touched the portkey attached to the falling bag at just the right moment.

Dumbledore let loose with a massive red flare. A second later the wake of Harry's passage could be easily made out, even though he was still too distant to see. Trees twisted and bent, birds were thrown about in a V-shape pattern.

"Here he comes now." supplied Dumbledore unnecessarily, as the red blur approached at an unbelievable speed. The blur reached the bag just as a flash of light from the portkey indicated activation, and both bag and bird disappeared.

Sirius quickly landed. He pulled out a ring and put in on his finger. Dumbledore immediately felt Sirius' aura brighten.

"Where is he, Sirius?" asked Dumbledore, pulling out a map.

Voldemort stared at the backpack that landed in the middle of the entrapped area. The backpack looked vaguely familiar.

The timer on a WWW perfect start firework buried in a large package of other explosives quietly counted down twenty seconds from its activation.

Cho stared out her bedroom window, looking over Diagon Alley. Sirius had sent her home immediately after Mrs. Weasley's arrival and now her curiosity was making her crazy.

"Why would she need Harry?" Cho pondered aloud.

"What was that, Cho?"

Cho turned to see her father in the doorway. "Nothing really, I was just wondering why Mrs. Weasley would come to ask for Harry's help."

Her father nodded, and came over and sat next to her on her bed. "I'd guess because he had something or could do something she needed desperately."

Cho smiled fondly at her father. "As usual, you answered the question both perfectly and completely uselessly."

Mr. Chang shrugged and nodded. "It's a gift."

Cho snorted. "Mum thinks it's a curse."

"Your mother was silly enough to marry me, why on earth would you trust her judgment?"

Cho giggled briefly, and hugged her father fondly, but quickly returned to her brooding.

Cho's father sat silently for several moments, studying his only daughter intensely. "What's wrong? Is everything alright between you and Harry?"

Cho nodded. "Yes, at least I think so. I know Grandmother isn't keen on me having a serious boyfriend and I'm sure you get more of her disapproval than I, but I am truly glad that you are letting me follow my heart."

Mr. Chang sighed. "It is more painful than you know. I swore when you were born that I would raise you in a manner suited to the country you were raised in, but it is difficult to watch you grow up so fast."

Cho smiled. "And I can't thank you enough. I must have been terrible to live with after Harry was put in prison. I'm sorry for that."

Her father sighed and smiled. "Cho, when your friend Cedric was killed, you were devastated. Harry filled the void in your heart and more. Then came that terrible time. I admit that I was terrified at the change that occurred in you after Harry was found guilty. I hated him then, probably even more than you did. He had done something that had taken away my daughter, and left only a shell."

Cho smiled and rested her head on her father's shoulder. "It was too painful for me to feel."

"I understand. But his return into your life brought you back to me, brought you back to us. Now, you are even more alive, more... more... you than I remember. For that, I will always be grateful to him."

"Thank you, Daddy." Cho whispered.

"I did want to ask you something difficult though."

"What was that?"

Mr. Chang sighed. "When you were born, some wizards and their families from China visited. My parents pressured me to promise your hand to one of the sons of their region's sorcerers."

Cho's head sprang up from his shoulder. "What?" she demanded.

"I refused straight out to promise you, but to save face, and I admit, to shut my mother up, I did promise something that I am not proud of."

"Go on." Cho said evenly, her eyes narrowing.

"I told them that I would always allow my only daughter to follow her heart. To save face, I promised that you would meet this boy before you were married so he could court you himself."

Cho blinked in surprise. "Why did you never tell me?"

"Because I wanted you to grow up without the expectation that you would have a husband selected for you."

"Why tell me now?"

"Because things between you and Harry have progressed beyond a... certain boundary."

Cho blushed. "Is it that obvious?"

Her father sighed softly. "No, but your Grandmother grabbed your bags when you arrived home and went to clean your clothes. Imagine her surprise when she found a large number of silky items she had no idea existed."

Cho's blush intensified. "Oh, no!"

"Harry must have bought them for you. Even though I have very limited experience with feminine undergarments, I do have an eye for quality. With the sheer number of them, it must have cost him a fortune."

Cho covered her face with her hands. "Can we talk about something else before I die of shame?"

"That's just it. I would like you to meet this young man, to get to know him. Once you finished school, of course. Harry will still be in school, so the two of you wouldn't be seeing a great deal of each other during that time in any event."

Cho raised her face from her hands, looking as though anger was not far off. "Do you want me to meet with him, or do you want me to marry him?" she asked dangerously.

Her father shook his head. "Just get to know him. That is all I promised. If you truly love Harry, and he you, then the only result of this will be that in six months you will personally know someone who lives in China."

Cho calmed, her brilliant mind turning the scenario over. "You could have given in, couldn't you. Back then, I mean."

Mr. Chang nodded. "It would have made my life easier. But not yours, I expect."

Cho leaned over and hugged him. "Thank you for not promising me, Dad. I will meet this man."

"Thank you, Cho. To tell you the truth, I expect that he will be just a little intimidated by the fact that the most famous wizard in the entire world is romantically involved with you."

Cho smiled and opened her mouth to respond, but suddenly gasped and wrapped her arms around her chest tightly. She fell to the ground, whimpering.

Her father's smile faded. "What is it?" he asked, concern evident in his eyes. Cho looked up as saw he was on the edge of panic.

"Harry!" she wheezed. "He's hurt!"

Harry transformed quickly and collapsed to the floor, his arms crossed against his chest, his mouth open in a silent scream of agony. The sudden appearance of a wall in front of him caused him to instinctively try to stop his supersonic flight and the effort of reversing his momentum all but tore his chest muscles from his bones.

In any event, he had hit the wall hard, his light avian body absorbing the impact enough that no bones were broken, but when Harry transformed back, he felt as though his organs had been removed and put back in the wrong order.

Now, he sat with his back against a stone pillar, willing the pain to subside. Gently, with trembling fingers, he extracted a thin metallic container from his belt and raised it to his lips. Between silent gasps, he swallowed the contents of the flask.

A dispassionate voice in the back of his mind finished counting. ...eight...nine...t-

The sound of the magically enlarged backpack full of powerful fireworks exploding at once distracted him from the pain in his pectorals and organs. With his back against the thick stone pillar, Harry didn't feel the shock wave as his ripped through the room, tearing through the containment charm like a soap bubble. He did feel his ear drums nearly burst from the noise. Harry clutched the sides of his head in agony.

Cho clutched the sides of her head and screamed. Her father, panicking, scooped her up and cradled her to his chest.

"H-H-Harry!" Cho gasped, pushing her father's arms away. "He's in trouble. I need to help him."

Cho's father held on tighter. "What's going on?" he demanded.

"It's Harry." said Cho. She concentrated on her love for him. "He's in a big room. Leaning against a stone wall. No, pillar." She took a few deep calming breaths.

"How? How do you know?"

Cho looked up into her father's eyes. "I don't know." She grabbed a handful of her father's clothes. "Grandfather once told me that Grandmother had the sight."

Mr. Chang swallowed loudly. "No Cho. Her sister did."

Cho blinked. "Are you sure?" she asked after a pause.

Mr. Chang nodded. "You have never shown any talent for divination, remember your grades?"

"Then what is happening to me?"

Voldemort slowly got to his feet after being thrown backward by the explosion, his face clearly showing his rage. "How dare they?" he screamed. "How dare they?"

Draco rolled over and got to his knees. "What's the matter? Not getting the attention you want?" he spat, spraying blood from his sneering mouth.

Voldemort whirled on him. "Crucio!"

Draco screamed, the awful noise fading to a horrible bloody gurgle.

His sudden disappearance left the Dark Lord standing shocked.

Harry glanced around the pillar to see Voldemort stand. The evil wizard rose in front of an altar and was obviously in a rage, Harry's scar throbbed and burned. Harry's ringing ears couldn't make out what he was saying, but it was quite clear when he put the Cruciatus on a bound wizard.

A bound wizard with blond hair.

"Draco!" Harry hissed. He fumbled for Draco's portkey on his belt and slowly stood. Stepping around the pillar, Harry tossed the globe in the air and with a wave of his wand, banished it.

The globe hit Draco square on the shoulder, causing the Slytherin to disappear in mid-howl.

The look on Voldemort's face was almost comical. As Voldemort lowered his wand, Harry could make out a tangle of copper curls on the altar.

Another wave of pain from his abused body staggered him, and Harry knew that in his current condition he had no hope of facing the Dark Lord. Not even to delay or distract him enough to save Mr. Weasley's daughter.

Pushing off against the pillar, Harry exited the large chamber down the nearest passageway, slowly staggering down the dimly lit corridor.

Harry slowly walked around another corner, opening onto a moderately large, open chamber. Weapons lined the walls, Japanese tatami mats lined a large square area in the center of the floor.

Harry knew exactly who this room belonged to.

And because of that knowledge, he dived forward and rolled into the center of the room, avoiding the swipe that would have taken his head off.

"Well, I hadn't expected to meet you again."

Harry rolled gracefully to his feet facing the room entrance. "Macnair." he said shortly.

"Ah, so you do know my name." said Harry's old instructor. The athletic man jumped down from his perch, just above the entrance to the room. "I'm glad. I hate killing people I haven't been introduced to."

Harry quietly drew his sword from his belt. Macnair's eyes widened. "You stole that from me!" he spat.

Harry nodded. "I like this sword."

Macnair growled, deep in his throat. "You should. There is no finer blade outside of Japan."

"I'm not surprised." Harry replied dryly.

Macnair gave Harry a sneer. "I told you before that using a blade like that will likely kill you. I'll find it amusing watching you lop your own head off."

"We'll see." Harry replied, slowly moving backwards onto the tatami.

In seconds, the pair faced each other across the reed mats. Macnair drew his own katana and assumed his stance, one Harry found very familiar.

Harry took the initiative, knowing that as much as he had improved, he was still very much outclassed. He threw himself at his opponent, launching a unskilled flurry of blows at Macnair's head. With practiced ease, Voldemort's weapons master picked off each one with an almost bored expression. "You have not improved, boy."

Harry didn't respond, but with an upward swing he pushed Macnair's sword above his head, then lashed out with his foot, connecting with Macnair's knee.

The surprised weapon master was able to turn his knee enough that Harry's kick struck side on, rather than front on. He did not however, manage to keep balance enough to strike at Harry.

Harry held his daikatana's blade against his opponent's own, giving him the opportunity to drive an elbow into Macnair's right eye.

With a grunt, Macnair let go of his blade with one hand, and swung his fist in a wide arc, connecting with Harry's already abused ribs. With a gasp, Harry leapt back, putting room between them again.

"Impressive. You drew me in, played on my underestimation of your skills." Macnair said, getting to his feet and testing his knee. "You should have pressed your advantage."

"If I'd stayed that close to you, my sword would have been almost useless and that knife strapped to your arm would have been lethal."

Macnair's smile faded. "You have improved. Good. It is much more satisfying hunting lions instead of rabbits."

Harry brought his sword across his body and back again to deflect two quick jabs. He leapt to his right, twisting his body and sweeping up Macnair's blade over his head. Harry ducked and twisted, swinging his leg out in a wide arc at ankle height.

Macnair easily jumped over Harry's kick, and brought his blade down on the Gryffindor's next attack, a horizontal swipe at Macnair's stomach.

"Predictable, Potter. Too predictable."

Harry leapt away, avoiding Macnair's next attack, which had come halfway through his last comment.

"I can see why my master's former followers underestimated you. You have an un-intimidating air about you."

Harry swallowed, trying to concentrate.

"Yet you learned your lessons well." Macnair thrust at Harry's face, then swept the blade round at his thigh. Harry recognised the feint and parried the true attack. With a flick of his wrist, Harry ran the edge of his sword down Macnair's blade towards the hilt, and only Macnair's own quick twist and flick saved him from losing some fingers.

"So well, you can improvise and adapt what you have learned quickly and effectively." Macnair continued, nodding thoughtfully. "You would have made a valued addition to my master's forces."

Harry shook his head. "Voldy never wanted me, he would have used me against the ministry and then abandoned me." Harry said, bringing his blade up horizontally, catching Macnair's descending blade cleanly. He allowed the blow to lower him to one knee then swung his blade out wide and across and knee height.

Macnair decided to jump rather than block, but Harry didn't complete the sweep. Instead, he halted his stroke halfway through, and raised the blade.

Macnair's eyes widened as he realised that Harry had tricked him. Desperately, he brought his katana down on Harry's own, succeeding enough so as that as he landed he didn't impale himself.

Harry rose from his knee like the leviathan, thrusting his shoulder into Macnair's chin. His head snapped back, teeth painfully crashing together. Blood and spit mingling in his mouth, Macnair stepped backwards, trying to center himself. Harry followed through this time with a stroke at Macnair's groin, swinging his blade up and through in, as his muggle primary school cricket coach would say, a classic straight drive.

Macnair, acting on instinct, got his own katana in a defensive position, but Harry's swing caught his blade on the incorrect edge, and Macnair found his arm twisted the wrong way.

But Macnair wasn't a master for nothing. He sacrificed his katana, letting it fly overhead and behind him. He collapsed backward, but lashed out with his legs, his right foot hooking behind Harry's left knee, and his left foot in front of Harry's left ankle.

Harry felt the tug behind his knee, pulling him forward. Fighting his instinct, Harry let himself fall straight down to his knees instead of face down on top of Macnair.

Macnair's knife flashed through the air where Harry's stomach would have been. With a swipe of his sword, Harry struck the knife in his opponent's hand, slicing the blade off the hilt. As the knife's blade clattered against the wall, Macnair rolled backward quickly, giving both swordsmen the chance to get to their feet.

"Not bad, not bad at all." said Macnair, a trickle of blood coming from one side of his mouth. He spun and raced across the room to his blade, adrenaline masking the pain in his knee.

Harry set his daikatana in his left hand, and drew his wand.

"Accio Macnair!"

Macnair was just centimetres from his sword when the magic caught him. With a yell of denial, Voldemort's weapon master flew through the air towards Harry. And, more importantly, the point of Harry's katana.

Even his desperate mid-air twisting couldn't save him, and Macnair's body slid onto the razor-sharp blade with a sibilant hiss.

The pair stared into each other's eyes, Harry with determination, Macnair in confusion.

"But, that's not fair." he whispered.

Harry snorted, staring at his dying instructor with blazing eyes. "Where the hell did you get the impression that I'd fight fair?"


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