willysunny, february_sea, are ya ready? :D
First parts here and here.
I don't even have a title for this yet. I do have an epigram, which comes later.
Blaise Zabini knew he was dying when the last ward settled. It was an old enchantment, something he'd learned about in his third year at Hogwarts. Professor Lupin, that werewolf who'd taught Defence Against the Dark Arts, had once given a lecture about ancient methods of torture. The older the spell, he'd said, the more deadly and sadistic. This one, the Enchanter's Necklace, was so ancient that nothing was known of its origin. Old it certainly was, effective and deadly in its antiquity. He could feel it, a tight band of pressure around his chest which was becoming more and more constricting with each breath. Blaise knew that the deeper he breathed, the more breaths he took, the tighter the band of pressure would become, until the breaths he was able to take became smaller still, then no more. He would die, but slowly, his body begging for oxygen as the band tightened still more. It might be days until he was dead. He would die by inches.
Apparently the rumour he'd heard was fact--that the Dark Lord was losing the war, and taking his Death Eaters with him.
Blaise was being held in the dungeons of Hogwarts--the very rooms which had sheltered and nurtured him during his years of school. After Voldemort had taken over Hogwarts, the dungeons had been restored to their original purpose: imprisonment, torture, and execution. Blaise Zabini was to experience all three of these.
As he was dying, each breath coming harder and taking in less and less air, he remembered.
His holidays in Brighton as a very young child, building castles of sand and watching as the ocean waves broke over them, not even thinking of asking Dad and Mum to stop the waves, because who could stop the sea, even with magic?
His first flight on a broom, with his father right there casting cushioning charms on everything around him in case Blaise should fall from the twelve feet that the Learning Broom took him. He didn't fall, not once. He knew his father had been proud.
His Hogwarts letter, and the hopes that he'd be placed in one of the houses of his parents. His mother had been Slytherin, his father Ravenclaw. When the Hat announced that he was to be in Slytherin, he was ecstatic.
His first friend at school, Millicent Bulstrode. Blaise had always been a short boy, not handsome, but rather scrawny, dark, and brooding. He was embarrassed by his size, and his face. Millicent, boistrous as she was, had laughed and shouted her introduction, showing no shame at her large bulk and strong features. Three years later, in a dark corner of the dungeons, she'd showed him that physical beauty was not required for pleasure. She was his best friend, and he loved her unconditionally. He wondered where she was, now; she'd not become a Death Eater when he had, and she'd left long before Voldemort arrived. He hoped she was safe.
Harry Potter, who took the wizarding world by storm, although to look at him you'd think he didn't want the glory and fame that had been thrust on him. Blaise hadn't bothered teasing Potter. That was Draco's department. Draco seemed to bother Potter more than anyone else in Slytherin, and to look at Potter, he was plenty bothered. It was a wonder they hadn't killed each other.
Draco Malfoy. Blaise closed his eyes and drew in a shallow breath, wondering about Draco as Voldemort's invisible chain tightened around him. He'd run, Draco had. He'd left by night, just as the Dark Lord had taken Hogwarts, calling his Death Eaters to him and promising the world to others who would follow him. So many had believed the lie. Draco had not. Blaise didn't know where Draco was, but he knew that even if Draco had died leaving, he was somewhere better than this dungeon. Draco was the brave one, not Blaise. Not Pansy, who'd run to the Dark Lord at his first call. She'd been dead for five days, broken on the rack. Muggle torture. Who'd have thought it of Voldemort.
No, Blaise thought as he took a tiny sip of air. Draco was the brave one. Everyone had thought him a coward, from the Dark Lord to Dumbledore to Snape to Harry Potter himself. But Blaise knew better.
Draco Malfoy, who got out, was the bravest of them all.
As the last breath left his lungs, Blaise thought of Draco, and prayed he would make it.
Note: The Enchanter's Necklace is borrowed from Shadow & Claw - The First Half of 'The Book of the New Sun' by Gene Wolfe, where (on page 81) its Muggle version is called Allowin's Necklace.
ETA: february_sea has sent me her beta, and I've done a post-beta edit, adding some of her stuff, and moving some stuff around of my own.