Word Count: 1,452
Prompt: Day 21 traditional - nutcracker soldier
Disclaimer: JK Rowling owns them, not me. This is for mischief's sake, not profit.
Author's Notes: This is for slythindor100 's Christmas challenge picture prompts. Sequel of Part one, Part two, Part three, Part four, Part five, Part six, Part seven, Part eight, Part nine, Part ten, Part eleven, Part twelve, Part thirteen, Part fourteen, Part fifteen, Part sixteen, Part seventeen, Part eighteen, Part nineteen & Part twenty
"What is going to happen in Stonehenge?" said George.
"Hopefully something funny?" said Fred tentatively.
The twins gazed at each other, a bit unnerved by the serious expressions of the others.
"I'm afraid it won't be funny." Luna's voice was devoid of the airiness that characterised her. "The magical disturbances are serious, and they are spreading like dragonpox out of control."
"We still haven't found out what the curse is!" Hermione ruffled her hair, perplexed at the mystery. She knew the clues implied a pattern but she hadn't yet found the connecting thread that would unite everything. She gazed at the cluttered table and reached towards her books but in her haste, she jostled the nutcracker she'd given Harry a year before. The tiny wooden soldier wobbled like a spin top before she gripped the base to straighten it, patting its hat in farewell.
"What's that?" Draco pointed at the figure; its long beard and blue eyes reminded him of Dumbledore.
"I gave Harry this nutcracker last Christmas. Quite useful to crack nuts."
Draco shook his head, muttering, "Silly Muggle custom!"
"Draco!" said Hermione in a scandalised voice.
Ron looked at Harry and wiggled his eyebrows. "While they discuss things in their usual way, can you show me the broom you told me about?"
Harry squinted sharply at Ron. He was quite sure Ron had already seen his new broom, but he shrugged and pointed to the door. The two Gryffindors made their way out of the room, walking towards the stairs. Ron sighed and tucked his hand inside his robes; after a few seconds he took out a device, the size of a cigarette lighter, which he pressed onto Harry's palm.
"Hold onto this for me, will you?" said Ron.
"You're giving me your Deluminator?" Harry clenched his fingers around the cylinder.
Ron cocked his head at the door. "The Put-Outer helped me through the dark times in the forest, Harry. It helped me to find my way back to Mione and you when things were awful, and I thought you two…"
Ron trailed off, his cheeks blushing in embarrassment. Then he carded his fingers through his hair. "Want you to have it, mate, that's all."
Harry stuck the device inside the pocket of his robes. "Thanks, I suppose. So you don't want to see the broom?"
"Nope, just wanted to give this to you."
"Fine, let's go back then."
They returned to the parlour to find Luna and Hermione arguing.
"I should think Harry knows better!" said Luna.
"I'm not arguing that, Luna. It's just that…" Hermione glanced at Harry and Ron and waved her arms at them. "Let's ask him!"
"Ask me what?" said Harry.
"Did Voldemort say anything strange in the Final Battle?"
"Not that I can recall. I was carried away and wanted it to end," explained Harry. "When I hugged him and jumped towards…"
"You hugged the Dark Lord?" said Draco, his eyes widened in surprise as his fingers gripped tightly the armrests of his chair.
Harry shrugged. "Wasn't looking forward to the confrontation, I just wanted him off balance, you know."
"Did he say anything strange that sounded like a curse? Did he speak Parsel to you?" said Ron urgently.
"Not that I can recall, Ron."
Harry bit his lip, looking at Draco's pensive face. The blond seemed to be absorbed in his thoughts; Harry noticed he took out the hawthorn wand and tapped it against his trousers.
Draco squared his shoulders and looked at the fire. "What was the prophecy again?" he said.
"At the solstice will come a new age, bereft of impurities, and none will come after," said Luna.
Draco took out his wand and swished it in a fluid and elegant motion. "Tempus lentissimus!"
Harry tried to lift his hand but found he couldn't move. His heart beat as usual and he still breathed; Harry could see the room clearly, but all the occupants bar Draco stood still as statues. Time moved sluggishly around him.
Draco sighed and pocketed his wand. He stood up and crossed his arms, gazing around the room. "This spell slows time around me," he said. "I came up with it when we were trapped in the dungeons during the Final Battle, and I wondered what to do if the ceiling caved on us."
He glanced at Fred. "I used a crude variant when I saved you, Fred. Otherwise the rock would've fallen too fast."
Draco glanced guiltily at Harry. "I can guess what Voldemort's curse was, Harry." He looked down at the floor and heaved a deep sigh. "In my work with Gringotts, I've researched the geas, which is this binding obligation you can't escape. I believe this is the basis of the Unbreakable Vow. As you well know, if you don't fulfil the Vow placed upon you, you die."
Draco started pacing back and forth in front of the fire. The flames flickered so slowly, Harry felt he was peering at it through the murky waters of the Black Lake.
"I reckon Voldemort placed a geas upon the land," said Draco slowly. "He wanted no Muggleborns. What better way to accomplish this than casting this curse which snuffs out magic?"
He went to the table and picked up the nutcracker, muttering, "That's what's going to happen. He placed this curse, this geas on Stonehenge, the centre of the ley lines and a place full of ancient magic, to be released during the solstice. This is why magic is acting so strangely. As the prophecy says, a new age will come, bereft of magic. Therefore, there will be no Muggleborns which were impurities in Voldemort's view."
Harry tried desperately to speak but he couldn't move his tongue, though he could breathe easily.
"Voldemort also wanted you dead," said Draco. "Bill and I talked about the hero Cúchulainn, and I see the similarities. To save magic, Voldemort must have arranged it so you would face conflicting geas which means you have to be the sacrifice once more, ever the Gryffindor soldier."
Draco's gaze slid to the red nutcracker soldier whose head he patted fondly.
"When you cast Sectumsempra on me, I know you were acting under the influence of Voldemort's horcrux." Draco said with a grimace as he patted his flat abdomen. "We are bound by this residue of his magic. That's why our scars are so similar and we glow when they touch."
Draco gazed at each of the frozen occupants of the room, nodding slightly at each until he looked at Hermione. "This will give me the chance to take Harry's place and defuse the solstice curse, and hopefully escape with my life."
Hermione tried to speak but it was useless; her gaze slid from Draco's face to the table where she could see the title of one of her books. She had the glimmer of an idea as she inwardly cursed the Slytherin's cunning.
Harry wanted so to rant and rave, but nothing came out of his mouth.
Draco walked slowly towards him. "The solstice is a time of ancient magic, Harry. During the longest night, people despaired at the fleeting sun which refused to spread its warmth over the barren, snowy landscape." He leaned towards Harry, brushing his fringe with his fingers so he could look directly into Harry's eyes. "But they hoped the day would come when the sun's rays would ensure lush, green pastures."
Draco fished inside his robes and took out a glimmering jewel. He opened his fist and Harry gazed at the silver anchor which had been inside the plum pudding.
Draco paused because he wanted to tell Harry so many intimate things, like his roaring anger when Harry was a prisoner at the Manor. This fury was directed mostly at himself because Draco knew he couldn't deliver Harry to Voldemort's cruel hands, not even if he faced the Dark Lord's wrath and risked the lives of his parents. But time was running out and Draco had to act promptly.
With a weary gesture, quite unlike the Malfoy of old, Draco leaned down as he raised his hand. "This is all about hope. It's what you made me feel when I met you at Madam Malkin's. I earnestly hoped you would save us all when I was trapped in the Manor with Voldemort."
Harry's heart clenched slowly, its pain dulled by Draco's spell.
"Do you understand, Harry, that I won't ever give you up?" He gazed intently at Harry, drinking the sight of his handsome face as he murmured softly against the silver anchor, "I love you."
Having given the password, the portkey activated and transported Draco out of Grimmauld Place and into the barren plains of Stonehenge, where drunken giants hewn of stone had stood patiently for millennia.