Chapter 73 - Holding On

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"He's awake," he heard one of the healers say.

A shape loomed over him and he moved to try and turn his head away, but hands took hold of the sides of his face and held him in place. Emotion swamped him: fear, anger, sadness. He was completely open to everything Madam Pomfrey was feeling as she prevented him looking away.

"I'm sorry, Harry," she said firmly, "but I need you to stay with me. Try and look at me, Harry, concentrate on staying awake. Can you do that for me?"

Harry could not see her features, but he had memorised then long since and he tried hard to put that memory to what his eyes were showing him. He knew she would be looking for some sign from him, something to indicate that he had heard and he managed to nod just slightly.

"Good, Harry," the praise was almost instantaneous with his movement and he felt the hope wash through Madam Pomfrey. "Keep looking at me."

She did not let go and although he could feel spells being cast around him and on him, Harry gave Madam Pomfrey his undivided attention. He was so tired and he hurt so much that part of him just wanted to close his eyes and let it all go, but the island of calm that was Draco and the torrent of emotions that was Madam Pomfrey would not let him give up.

"We're ready," Harry heard and he saw the blob of the school healer's face look away from him for a moment.

He felt trepidation move through the woman.

"Harry," she said as soon as she looked back, "we are going to try and cleanse your body. We have to purge the dark magic before we can begin to heal you properly. We have contained it and now we have to remove it. It's going to hurt, and I'm sorry, but you must try and stay awake. If you leave us we may not be able to bring you back."

Harry gave Madam Pomfrey another nod, but he did not know how much more he could take. Nothing could have prepared him for what came next. All four healers cast something at the same time and the spell hit him like Cruciatus. The magic clawed at him and daggered into every cell seeking out the power rippling through his body; light magic met dark and declared war, with his broken form as the battle ground.

If he had had the breath he would have screamed, but Harry could not even moan as every muscle in his body, irrespective of whether it was damaged, tensed. It was more than his tortured shell could stand and no matter how he tried to hold on, his body was ripped from his control.

"He's going into convulsions," was the last thing he heard and then the world began to fade.

Harry reached for the calm point of Draco, but it seemed so far away and he could not touch it. He grabbed for it desperately as panic filled him, but it was as if there was something between him and the world. Everything was dim and he could not stop himself slipping away from it.

The further he moved from the world the less afraid he felt and eventually, with detached calm he came to the realisation that he was dying. As he accepted this the pain faded completely and Harry stopped fighting. The moment he gave up he felt mental arms around him and he was filled with warmth.

[I'm dying, Draco,] he said as he recognised the touch, [you have to let me go.]

[Where you go I go, Love,] Draco told him calmly.

Harry turned in the embrace, not sure when his mind had conjured him a body, but not caring either. Draco's grey eyes were clear and bright and he was looking at Harry intently.

[You can live, Draco,] Harry said, perfectly certain of his facts, [don't give up because of me.]

[Could you live without me, Harry?] Draco asked with a small smile.

[That's different,] he tried to protest, but his soulmate placed a finger on his lips before he could go on.

[I need you as well, Love,] Draco told him. [You are my reason to go on. Would you want me to be the next Voldemort?]

Harry shook his head.

[Without you that is what I would become. I would not care anymore, Love,] Draco explained, [and that would make me very dangerous. I bound my body to yours with a blood bond and I will not break it.]

[That's the only reason I survived so long isn't it,] Harry said, looking into his lover's eyes. [Your strength kept me going. I'm sorry it wasn't enough, I just couldn't hold on.]

[You've fought enough, Harry,] Draco responded with a smile. [Don't be sorry, at least we are together.]

It was completely dark around them now, the real world had completely faded for both of them, and as if on cue a light flared in the distance. Harry felt the pull towards it almost instantly and he turned to look at it, still encased in Draco's embrace.

[I wonder if it is this way for everyone,] he said slowly, [or if this is just the way we see it?]

[When we get there we'll have to ask them,] Draco replied and released him only keeping hold of one of Harry's hands.

~*~

Okay, I realise I am evil for ending the chapter there - but before anyone panics - please note there are 8 chapters to go ;)

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