Disclaimer: All characters from the Harry Potter universe belong to J.K. Rowling, Bloomsbury Publishing, Scholastic Inc., AOL/Time Warner and associated companies. No offence, legal or otherwise, is intended by the online publication of this story. Neither is profit. Make love, not lawsuits!
Notes: Written for Contrelamontre's 'Proverb' challenge, in which the only spoken words can be proverbs. Written in 41 minutes. The time limit was 2 hours.
The Death Eater twisted, gag warm and wet with saliva. His wrists chafed where they were bound, and he stank with the sweat of fear--but Harry Potter, who stood close to him, smiling up at him, did not seem repulsed.
No one asked Harry what he planned to do when he placed his wand, cool and smooth, against the Death Eater's throat.
No one dared.
Harry looked back at his followers, his soldiers, dirty and bedraggled and torn by war. Ron was missing from the position to his right, of course--he had been killed, a few months ago, by a nameless man in a black cape.
A man no longer nameless, although his name scarcely mattered. He was bound before them, helpless, and Harry Potter's eyes didn't look all that sane.
Years. Years. Years of fighting this war. There was barely anything left--and sometimes Harry wondered if he was only saving ashes, ashes, as the world turned to dust.
He looked at Hermione--face turned away from him, jaw tight with hatred. Harry had sent Ron out, after all, as he sent everyone out--and Hermione didn't agree with his methods, because she was a believer in peace, futile thing, and she thought he had lost his mind.
He turned to the Death Eater again--who had a silver band around his neck, a curling snake, a gift marking him as one of Voldemort's favorites. Perhaps even a son.
A cease-fire was currently in place, as it had been for the last three weeks--engineered carefully and strenuously by Severus Snape and Albus Dumbledore. It was the longest period of peace in almost as many years, and was intended to last long enough to evacuate the most endangered Wizarding settlements. Both sides were under orders not to initiate attacks.
But then Harry remembered Ron's breath warm against his ears, Ron's hands warm against his skin, Ron's laughter warm in the mornings.
And he raised his wand, fingers quite steady, and murmured the curse.
The body slumped to the ground.
Why? Why? Was it not an effective strategy?
'Kill one to warn a hundred,' Harry said patiently, smiling.
No one looked at him.
* * *
Four days later, when the Death Eaters had finally stopped flinching in their Lord's presence, and Voldemort's scream of rage had almost stopped echoing in their minds, they broke through the wards around Hogsmeade.
It had been hard work. Zabini was mud-drenched and exhausted--his charts of Arithmancy lay scattered on the ground, his quill clenched in shaking fingers. He sent Goyle to inform their Lord of his success, and looked up at the iron-grey sky with an expression akin to relief.
Some good news, at long last. They now had Hogsmeade--one of Potter's most beloved strongholds--in their control.
The streets were already empty--rain-slick and shining, as though paved with silver. Zabini admired the beauty of this, the beauty of the fear that lingered as tangibly as the scent of rain over each rooftop, across each warded door. They knew what was coming, after all.
Thus it was no surprise when, a few hours later, Death Eaters descended on the town like a flock of crows. Black-robed, rustling, loud in the silence. Their white masks glinted in the faint sunlight--and Zabini, the only one given respite from the attack due to his status, kneeled at his Lord's feet. Watching.
Voldemort's forked tongue flickered out, once, as if to test the air. The fear. Zabini, who remembered scenting the fear too, smiled.
The view was perfect from here: they could see the skull and the serpent above each house that was entered, and the flashes of dull green light through pretty little windows.
'Kill a hundred to warn one,' Voldemort whispered.
Wet grass prickled Zabini's hands. He ran his palms over it and leaned against his Lord's knees, silver torque glistening at his throat. He thought of saying: Yes, but then Voldemort's hand was in his hair, stroking it just as he stroked the grass, and he closed his eyes in contentment.
Rest. Rest at last.