Disclaimer: All power in Harry Potter and Hogwarts be unto JK Rowling.
A/N: And we've reached the end. Can you believe I was originally going to make this story just three chapters? It's true. But then, I wound up adding Chapters 2-4, The original Chapter 2 was expanded to become Chapters 5-8, and this final chapter would have been Chapter 3. Thank you all for reading. I've definitely been encouraged by the response.
In a section of unowned, unrestricted forest not to far from the boundaries of Hogwarts's Forbidden Forest, Harry Potter stepped alone into a clearing. It was the middle of the night, but he knew the enemy was still moving, working to secure the major magical population centres of the country by sunup. It was time to interrupt their work.
The first part of his plan was brilliantly simple. He just opened his mouth and shouted as loud as he could, "HEY! VOLDEMORT! I KNOW YOU CAN HEAR ME! WHY DON'T YOU COME OUT HERE AND FACE ME LIKE A MAN?"
This was brilliantly simple and not just plain stupid because Harry had just drunk his last dose of Felix Felicis and had had Hermione Granger and Bill Weasley erect some very specific wards around him. He also had some great backup…
Dumbledore's Army, the Order of the Phoenix, and a contingent of Aurors and Hitwizards led by Rufus Scrimgeour crowded into the basement of Twelve Grimmauld Place waiting to hear Harry's final plan. The only people missing were Bill and Fleur. Harry gave them option of sitting this out entirely because it was their wedding night, but they elected to take just an hour in one of the spare bedrooms while everyone else got ready. They both agreed they were in it to the finish.
A number of the adults, most notably Molly Weasley, objected to Ginny, Luna, Colin, and the others who were underage going out to fight. Determined to end the argument quickly, Ginny challenged her mother to an impromptu duel in the front hallway, which she not only won, but also tied her up and threatened to leave her behind if she said another word about it.
No one objected after that. "That's my girl," Harry said.
"Alright, Mr. Potter," Scrimgeour said, "we agreed to join with your forces. Now, what's this plan of yours?"
"Okay, this is going to sound weird and even a little crazy, but I promise we've carefully planned it out. I am going to pretend to go up against the Death Eaters alone. I need Hermione and Bill to help set up, and then you'll all be lying in wait for them to show up…
Less than a minute after Harry issued his challenge, two Death Eaters apparated into the clearing. They were in their black robes, but had their masks raised. Harry recognised one of them as Dolohov, who had cursed Hermione at the Department of Mysteries. The other was a huge, blond man he didn't know.
"Hello, boys, I'd like to have a word with the boss," Harry taunted.
"Then let us take you to him," the blond giant grinned. "Stupefy!"
The spell sailed forth…and then splashed off the wards around Harry, to their surprise.
"Ah, ah, ah," Harry said, wagging his finger at them. "I asked for Voldemort, and I want to see him face to face. I'm not going anywhere unless you call him."
"Do you really think we're gonna fall for that?" Dolohov said.
Suddenly, a beam of red light hit each of them in the back and they crumpled to the ground. A moment later, they were disarmed and bound in ropes.
"Not really," Harry answered casually.
"Whoa, that was too easy," Neville said.
"Only because they don't know we know about the Taboo," Harry replied. "And my good luck. Everybody stand back, now. This is where things get ugly." He sauntered up to the unconscious Dolohov and gave him a swift kick in the groin. "That's for Hermione." Then he went for his true objective: exposing his left arm from behind the ropes, Harry pressed his own wand to Dolohov's Dark Mark. If he was right—and his luck was telling him he was—then Voldemort would recognise the magical signature of his wand and come running to the scene like a bat out of hell.
Sure enough, a few minutes later, there was a chorus of pops, and about four dozen black-robed figures appeared in the clearing. Several of them had their masks off, including Bellatrix Lestrange and Lucius Malfoy. Several others had their robes askew, as if they'd come here in a hurry. In the centre was a man with white scales for skin, slits for a nose, and glowing red eyes, whose robe seemed to swirl around him like a cloud.
"Harry Potter," Voldemort said. "How kind of you to call on me tonight." He waved his wand suspiciously, and the ward around Harry shimmered.
"It was my pleasure, Tom," Harry said with a determined, potion-fuelled grin.
Surprisingly, Voldemort didn't lash out at that name. He continued to speak smoothly, saying, "Brave words, Potter. I had hoped you might show up to my little party. But hiding behind wards? That's bad form." He waved his wand in a complex pattern, and then jabbed it forward. There was a blinding flash, and the wards shattered.
Harry just stood there, raising his wand lazily. "Oh, I never said I needed them," he replied. "I just wanted to make sure I got to face you in a fair duel. "You have been taught how to duel, Tom Riddle?" he mocked Voldemort's words of two years earlier.
"You know I have, Harry Potter."
"Good, because it's time we settled this once and for all."
"Not without us, you won't! Dumbledore's Army!" Neville cried from somewhere behind the trees, where another ward had obscured the presence of the ambushers.
"Dumbledore's Army!" a crowd yelled, and dozens of fighters swarmed out of the trees—probably a superior force by sheer numbers, though not power. At the same moment, an Anti-Apparition Ward went up around the whole area. Harry saw Neville wielding the Sword of Gryffindor. He wasn't sure where he'd got it, but it might come in handy.
"Potter!" Voldemort roared. He whirled around and joined the Death Eaters in firing curses at the attackers. People started going down on both sides.
"No! Stop!" Harry yelled, and he started firing any curses he could think of at Voldemort, quickly proving just how far he'd come in the past two years. Voldemort turned his attention back to him, and he immediately found himself in the fight of his life—ironic since it was a fight he needed to lose, but not just yet. A few times, their wands connected with the Priori Incantatem effect, but one or the other of them always shook it off right away.
Harry could barely see as the dense knots of attackers punched their way closer and closer to Nagini, who lashed out at anyone who got within striking distance. The Weasleys, all fighting in a tight cluster, got bogged down when Bellatrix singled them out, and Molly, in front, could barely keep her wand up against her. Harry watched in horror as she collapsed under a curse, though thankfully not a Killing one, and her husband pulled her behind him.
"No!" Harry yelled to his comrades. "I said get out!" But he knew they wouldn't leave. This was all part of the plan:
"We're not trying to beat the Death Eaters outright, at least not at first. The first and most important objective is to get You-Know-Who's snake, Nagini. To do that, Ginny, Hermione, Luna, Neville, and Ron will each have a basilisk fang. I'll distract You-Know-Who long enough for them to get close, and then one of them has to stab the snake. It's complicated, but that's what has to be done. The rest of you have the job of getting them past the Death Eaters to do it.
"Oh, and secondary objective: I would like Lucius Malfoy and Severus Snape to be taken alive. However, I don't want any of you to put their lives ahead of your own. That's only if you get a clear shot at it."
Voldemort had him on the ropes, but he stood his ground. He had to hold this to the end. He saw Hermione push forward, but she was stunned, knocked down by a nasty Bludgeoning Hex, and nearly bitten by Nagini for good measure. A group of Aurors and Hitwizards rushed in to drag her back, but they were cut down fast. By the time they pulled her to safety, only one was still standing.
Fred and George snuck around from behind their parents and started throwing all the prank items they could at Lucius Malfoy. Meanwhile, a Hitwizard got close enough to Snape to say something to him unnoticed. But then, Fenrir Greyback picked up Luna by the collar and made ready to bite her with his still-human teeth. In response, Cho Chang and Su Li charged him and got her free with some precision hexes inherited from their Chinese ancestors.
Neville, though, seemed to be winning his fight. He swung both wand and sword like a madman, cutting a swath through the Death Eaters to get to the snake. The moment he was in arm's reach, he swung the sword hard and sliced Nagini's head off with a single blow.
"NAGINI! NOOO!" Voldemort roared. He whipped his wand around, no doubt to cast some horrible area-effect curse to get the killer.
Harry intensified his assault and screamed out his order: "NO! GET OUT OF HERE! I TOLD YOU I HAVE TO DO THIS ALONE! GO!"
"Now, here's the hard part," he told them. "Once we get the snake, I'm going to call all of you off, and you have to go. I have to deal with You-Know-Who personally—I can do it, but it has to be me alone. When I give the order, I want all of you to fall back inside the Hogwarts ward boundaries and wait for the signal. After that, rounding up the Death Eaters should be easy…well, easi-er."
And with that, the attackers turned on a dime and fled back into the trees, picking up and carrying the wounded and dragging two people they had captured successfully: Lucius Malfoy and Severus Snape. They'd lost a few people, but it looked like Harry's own luck was still holding out.
"HUNT DOWN THOSE COWARDS!" Voldemort ordered.
"NO!" Harry shouted. "Leave them alone, Tom! This is between you and me! I'm the one you want!"
"Hold!" Voldemort said. He looked genuinely surprised. He strode as close as he dared to Harry and examined his face. "You would stand in their place?" he hissed.
"They're not supposed to be here," Harry said. That was true. They weren't supposed to be there right that second. "This is between you and me, Tom, and we both know it."
"So noble, Harry Potter. Even now, when all hope is lost, you place yourself in front of them. You are more your mother's son than I had first thought…Very well. Let it not be said that Lord Voldemort is not merciful. Those who bow to me when you are gone will be spared."
"You'll have to kill me first," Harry said.
"That can be arranged." Voldemort stepped back and took his stance. "A proper duel, as you said. Bow to death, Harry Potter."
Harry took his stance very carefully. He did bow this time, but only because he also said, "Likewise, Tom Riddle."
Voldemort hesitated, then waved his wand and said, "Avada Kedavra!" Harry, however, just as Dumbledore had done before him, moved with deliberate slowness. With his seeming misstep, he closed his eyes and let the curse take him.
The next thing Harry Potter was aware of was lying face-down, alone, on a polished stone floor. With the carefree laziness of awakening on a weekend morning, and yet perhaps in no time at all, he became aware of his surroundings. It looked very much like a temple of gleaming white and fog…or perhaps, squinting into the light, a train station.
He had come with nothing, not even the clothes on his back, nor his glasses. They weren't needed here, although as soon as he felt the desire for a robe, one presented itself to him, shining white, and he put it on.
The place was empty. It seemed as if his body was the only thing in it that wasn't white and shimmering. The only thing, except…
He recoiled when he saw it—under a bench, what looked like a stillborn infant, or one nearly dead. It was bloody, scarred, emaciated, and whimpering in pain. And most disturbingly, it had the same scaly skin and lack of nose as Voldemort.
"Let it die in peace, Harry."
The voice came from behind him, and it almost might have been the voice of an angel—soft and almost musical. Harry turned around and saw a young woman, just a few years older than he was, walking toward him—a woman with auburn hair and emerald eyes, and wearing the same blue dress she had worn on All Hallow's Eve of 1981.
"Mum?" Harry could barely speak. She nodded, and he stood upright and ran into her arms.
She was solid. Not a vision trapped in a mirror. Not an echo called up from Voldemort's wand. She was here. "Oh, Harry," she whispered through her tears as he wept onto her shoulder. "My wonderful boy. My brave, brave man."
"I've missed you so much," Harry sobbed.
"I've missed you, too, sweetie." She kissed him on the side of his head. "Every moment. But I'm so proud of what you've done. We all are."
Harry raised his head up enough to look around, blinking away the tears. "Where's Dad?" he asked, pulling back enough to see Lily's face.
"Off with Sirius, pranking Dumbledore," she grinned. "Would you believe the old man actually wanted to be the one to meet you here. I told him exactly what I thought of that idea."
"I bet he was sorry he even mentioned it," Harry said, returning her grin weakly.
"Oh, he was. You really have inherited my temper. Your father and Sirius wish they could be here, too, but it could only be one."
"It was you, you know," Harry said quickly. "You were the one who made me to get my act together—come up with a real plan."
"I know," Lily said. She hugged Harry again, holding him tight and stroking his hair. "I was always there for you, and I always will be."
Harry just stood there in Lily's arms for a while, crying again, not wanting the moment to end. But after a timeless time, his curiosity got the better of him: "So it worked, then? Dumbledore's plan?"
"Yes, it worked," she said softly. "Voldemort's mortal now, and your soul is completely healed."
"And I have to go back, then?" he said resignedly.
He looked up and saw that Lily had tears in her eyes once again. "Technically…you don't have to…" she said, "but you know that someone has to finish the job. And you have friends back there, a girlfriend, a family in all but blood—you have a chance at a long, happy life that we never had. None of us want to see you pass that up. We'll wait for you."
Harry had no to answer that. He knew it was true. Finally, he forced his tongue to obey him. "And my plan?" he asked. "To finish it."
"It'll work," Lily assured him. "It's a good one. It's true to your roots—our roots. Voldemort will never see it coming."
That was enough. As much as it pained him, Harry made his decision. "I love you, Mum," he choked. "Thank you so much—for everything. And tell Dad and Sirius I love them, too."
Lily nodded. "I love you, too, Harry. We all do. Always."
"My Lord…my Lord, please let me—" a woman's voice said—a crooning, almost caring sort of voice that nonetheless still sounded much crueler than Lily Potter's.
"I do not require assistance," Voldemort said sharply. From the sound of it, he had fallen when Harry did and was just now getting up—or perhaps no time at all had passed in the land of the living. Harry lay perfectly still where he had fallen. "The boy…is he dead?" Voldemort asked. Harry heard no one speak. "Bellatrix…examine him. Tell me whether he is dead."
Harry heard slow footsteps. Bellatrix was creeping toward him cautiously, no doubt as suspicious as her master that things had not gone according to plan. And with good reason, if she only knew. Harry had practised that fall with a Stunner from Ginny, Hermione, or Ron more times than he could count—how to stand in exactly the right way so that he would be more likely to fall facing away on his left side, thus concealing his true purpose. He was ready.
Harry waited as long as he dared, until he could hear Bellatrix's footsteps almost upon him. Then, in a flash, he reached into his cloak and rolled over.
BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!
As luck would have it, Harry's luck held out, even in death. Three deafening bangs shattered the night air, and the three most dangerous people in Britain, Bellatrix Lestrange, Fenrir Greyback, and Voldemort himself, collapsed to the ground, each with a hole of nine millimeters' diameter right between their eyes.
Harry sprang to his feet. The Death Eaters stared at him in horror, and then…
"That's the signal!" a voice called from the distance.
Harry swung his arm back and forth, emptying the rest of his clip into the Death Eaters before switching back to his wand. The Felix Felicis ensured that he continued to make good shots and dodge their curses. Only a few of the Death Eaters shielded themselves successfully. Many of them were still trying to break through the Anti-Apparition Ward to get away when Dumbledore's Army set upon them once more. Leaderless, disorganised, and demoralised, the remaining Death Eaters were soon routed.
Within hours, the news spread across Britain that Voldemort was dead. People whom he had placed under the Imperius Curse regained their senses. His mercenary army, which he had not yet had time to fully assemble, scattered to the four winds, and the Ministry building was retaken in short order.
As the sun rose the next morning, Dumbledore's Army and its allies tended their wounded and counted their dead up at the school. The Light Side had lost fifteen in the forest, including three Harry was close to: Dean Thomas, Anthony Goldstein, and Alicia Spinnet. There were three more from among Ginny's and Luna's year-mates and nine of the Aurors and Hitwizards, who had led the charge. There were more dead at the ministry and in the other hot spots of the fighting, but it was still far, far better than it would have been if Voldemort had had time to assemble his army, so in that respect, Harry, and indeed all of Britain, could still count themselves lucky.
Harry told Andromeda to take Lucius to meet his family, and at his prompting, Professor McGonagall pulled Snape aside for a long, long conversation. Bill and Fleur left as soon as Molly was awake enough to give them her blessing to get a proper start on their honeymoon, and Remus and Tonks, recently married themselves, disappeared into Gryffindor Tower, not to be seen again until dinnertime. Despite the tragedy, a lot of people felt like celebrating, but Harry felt little but relief.
It was midmorning when he found himself alone out on the viaduct, overlooking the ravine. "We did it, Mum," he said quietly. "The war's over. We got them—all of them. Maybe I can have a normal school year for once, huh? Ah, who am I kidding. I'm Harry Potter."
Somewhere, he thought, his dad and Sirius were laughing at him—and probably telling him to go back inside to his girlfriend. But he could wait a few more minutes. He could feel it now more strongly than ever: after everything, his mother's love still ran through his veins. It was different now, though. Through touching her, he could feel all of them—his father, Sirius, and, yes, even Dumbledore. Sirius was right, he thought: "The ones who love us never really leave us."
"I love you too," he whispered to the warm summer air. "Always."