Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter.

Prized

Chapter Forty-Two - Final Battle

Rufus had been studying a map of Hogwarts when the Patronus burst through his door, pattering on tiny feet and leaping on top of the table. The Weasel was translucent and barely there, but it was there, and its warning was terrifying. "The Order has fallen," it said. "All is lost."

Rufus had no idea who it belonged to, but he assumed the message was legitimate. Why wouldn't it be? What good could possibly come of warning the Ministry that the Order of the Phoenix had been defeated?

He drew in a shuddering breath and nodded. "Thank you," he said.

The Patronus faded away to nothing, leaving Rufus wondering what the hell he was going to do now. Why had the Order moved on Hogwarts without telling them that they were going to? He could have supplied them with Aurors, with…

But he couldn't have, could he?

Not when Hogwarts was practically an impenetrable fortress. Not when he'd been studying all the maps that existed of the damned school only to come up short each and every time, because there was no way in but those that everyone already knew about. Or at least, no way that he knew of.

He could never have justified dispatching his Aurors into the slaughter that the Death Eaters would have made of it, could never have justified throwing lives away with little chance of success.

Rufus closed his eyes and let his head rest on the cold wood of his desk. It helped ground him, not that being grounded was doing much good these days. He looked up eventually, once more staring at the map. "I don't know what to do," he said quietly, relieved to admit it even though there was no one around to hear him say it.

Or maybe that was why it was such a relief. He didn't know what to do, and he'd been thinking it for so long… Saying the words out loud where there was no one to judge him was a weight off of his shoulders.

He sighed.

Well, if there was nothing else to do, maybe the time had come to throw themselves at Voldemort with everything they had and hope that it was enough to actually do some damage. Maybe it was time for that suicide run, since it seemed like nothing else was going to work.

"Don't be ridiculous," he muttered to himself. It was never time for a suicide run. Not until there was literally nothing left. At least now, in the moment, Voldemort and his Death Eaters were staying behind the walls of Hogwarts. Yes, they couldn't get in to fight them, but Voldemort also wasn't leaving to try and take the rest of the Ministry.

Rufus supposed that he should be grateful for small favors.

And then the alarms went off, and he realized that their time, whatever they'd once had, had just run out. Voldemort was here, and Rufus didn't think that he was leaving until he had what he wanted. Looked like it was time to go out fighting, at least.

In a way, that was also a relief. Now there were no more major decisions to make, because he would never surrender to Voldemort. Now, it was just a question of how quickly he would die.

ooOOooOOoo

Remus snarled at the Auror in front of him, his fingers curled into something closer to claws than actual hands. He swiped at him with one hand, wand clenched tightly in the other, and watched as the Auror went flying. He finished him off with a brutal cutting curse, and tried to pretend like he hadn't just cut down one of the good guys.

Like he wasn't turning into the monster he'd always believed himself to be.

It didn't work, especially not when Fenrir, beside him, tore into the throat of a helpless young woman, whose screams cut off in a pathetic gurgle.

Remus gagged when he heard Fenrir biting into her even further, when her blood sprayed out in an arch in front of him. He had to close his eyes and take several deep breaths, and hoped that it would be enough to keep himself from throwing up.

It worked, but only just barely.

While he'd been composing himself, the line of Death Eaters behind him and the other werewolves was advancing, their pace slow and steady. There wasn't much for them to do, behind Fenrir's pack the way they were. They were more useful in open spaces rather than the hallways, when they didn't have the wolves acting as personal shields.

One of the few benefits of lycanthropy was the protection from many curses that it offered. It wouldn't stop an Unforgivable, and wouldn't completely stop a Blasting Curse or many others, but minor ones would never touch a werewolf.

"You're doing well," Fenrir growled, finally dropping the girl's body.

"I don't feel like I am," Remus said honestly, even as they continued forward. There didn't seem to be anyone in between them and the next large room, but that could change if someone came running out from a side hallway.

"You're a bit squeamish, but you'll get over it eventually," Fenrir said.

That wasn't what Remus had meant at all. He wasn't doing well. How could he be, when he felt so sick if he looked back at the carnage behind them? Most of these people were innocent, had nothing to do with the war. What Voldemort was doing…

But Remus knew that he'd made a deal with Voldemort to continue to be close to Harry, the one thing remaining of much happier times. And that deal required him to deal with doing things like this, possibly for the rest of his life.

When the werewolf ahead of him caught someone else by the throat, biting down with a muffled howl, Remus fought down the urge to throw up once more. Merlin, he hoped that he wouldn't have to deal with this for the rest of his life.

He didn't think he could handle it.

ooOOooOOoo

Taking the Ministry was almost pathetically easy. Their defenses crumbled like paper before Voldemort, which would normally have pleased him. At the moment, he found it to be particularly frustrating. After all, he was here to blow off some steam, and with everything going well, he hadn't even had to throw a curse.

He did get to fire one off about halfway through the Ministry, when some idiotic little chit snuck behind them somehow and tried to kill him with a botched Killing Curse. The little girl didn't even really know how to throw it, but she tried anyway. It fizzled out before the light could even properly leave her wand. Even with it being aimed at him, he still found it more amusing than anything else.

When they finally breached the Minister's inner sanctum, Voldemort was amused to find Scrimgeour himself there, but also several members of the Wizengamot and several Aurors that had doubtlessly been held in reserve to make one last, desperate stand.

They were cut down with such speed that Voldemort couldn't help but laugh a little. Thicknesse fell in the abrupt, brutal assault, and Voldemort would have been sorry to lose his puppet, but he'd outlived his usefulness at that point.

After all, they had the Ministry. They didn't need anything else.

"What now?" Lucius asked in the hush that fell after the spells stopped flying.

"There are doubtlessly areas that haven't been wiped out yet," Voldemort said with a shrug. "Keep searching, find and kill any and all Ministry employees. If they surrender, I suppose we could take them prisoner."

Lucius bowed to him, then swept from the room. Voldemort could hear him delivering orders through the thick wood of the door. He closed his eyes and listened, briefly, then let a small smile spread over his lips.

It was over. They'd won. All he had to do now was set up the government he'd been thinking of since he'd started this war so many years ago.

After conquering the Ministry, it seemed like it might be possible. And, if he was lucky, it would distract him from the inappropriate feelings that still burned inside of him. That would be a nice side-benefit.

ooOOooOOoo

The Aurors had fallen, and there was no way out of the Ministry. Percy was no fool. The Death Eaters were advancing, had taken out the Minister, and the only thing to do now was to either die fighting, or surrender and hope that one of the Death Eater's was inclined to show mercy.

Percy, frankly, doubted that they were inclined to any such behavior.

He wasn't ashamed to admit that he did consider surrendering. Who wouldn't? If there was even a chance that they would let him live…

And one of the girls with him, she did surrender. She dropped her wand and folded herself onto the ground, splaying her hands out in front of her. But she was a nothing and a no one. She wasn't a Weasley, and there was no way that someone like Lucius Malfoy would ever accept a Weasley who surrendered.

No, Percy's best option at this point, for all that it wasn't a particularly good option, was to go out fighting. It wasn't exactly what he wanted to do, it wasn't how he'd thought his life would go, but there was nothing to do about it now.

He supposed he'd just been born at the wrong time. Maybe, if he was lucky, his death would inspire those few still alive in their small office to keep fighting.

He stood, wand drawn, the first word of the incantation for a Blasting Curse on his lips. But he was no duellist, and he was cut down before he could even really get the first word out. As he fell, the light dimming in his eyes, he noticed the other people he'd been hiding with dropping their wands and bowing down, much like the first girl.

It was over. He supposed there was a benefit to this. He wouldn't have to live to see what a world under Voldemort's rule would look like.

ooOOooOOoo

Draco's eyes fluttered open when he felt a light pressure on his hand. He sat up quickly and looked at Harry's face, hoping to see a hint of the green of his eyes, or at least see his eyelids twitching, but there was none of that. Just a slight squeeze on his hand.

He let out a shuddering sigh and relaxed ever so slightly. Harry was still alive, and would stay that way. He would be fine. His voice might be ruined, he might not speak, but he would still be okay.

The clicking of Narcissa's shoes on the floor announced her arrival at Harry's bedside. "He's making his way slowly up towards consciousness, according to his scans," she said quietly. Her hand landed on Draco's shoulder, and she rubbed it. "And your father has sent word from the Ministry."

Draco both wanted to know, needed to know if he were being completely honest, and didn't at the same time. "What's the news?" he asked, because needing definitely outweighed not wanting to know.

"We've won," she said simply. "The Ministry fell today. We took a handful of prisoners, but not many, and no one of note. I think that the Dark Lord wasn't going to risk having anything happen by letting anyone with actual power survive."

"Not after what happened with Granger," Draco muttered. He couldn't blame him, honestly. He wouldn't want to let anything else happen to Harry, and leaving someone alive with a very good reason to want to kill him?

That was just asking for trouble.

"That was my line of thinking as well," Narcissa agreed with a nod. "Now, you should go and eat something, Draco. You've been sitting here since he got injured, except for when the Dark Lord threw you out."

Draco shook his head, his stomach churning. "I'm not hungry." Harry was going to be fine, but that didn't mean that Draco was willing to leave him on his own. Just in case any enemies were still left alive, Draco knew that he couldn't leave him.

Narcissa sighed. "What if I bring you a tray?" she asked.

Draco hesitated, then nodded. "Yeah, okay," he said. "Thanks, Mother."

She kissed him on the forehead. "It's not a problem," she murmured, then swept from the room.

In Draco's hand, Harry's twitched, curling tighter for just a moment before releasing. His brow furrowed, and he let out a scratchy, grumbling sound, but he didn't actually wake up. But that was okay. Draco know that it wouldn't be long before he did. After all, this was a bright and beautiful new world, where the Ministry had fallen and they'd won the war.

Anything could happen.