Chapter 17 – Turn the Sword
The final chapter, and I do find myself wondering how this will be received.
I think a bit of explanation regarding my thought process when writing this story is required here. When I decided I was going to write a Slytherin! Harry story, I decided that the ending of the story had to reflect the personality of a true member of the House of Snakes. Now, Harry for most of this tale is a pretty poor Slytherin, in my opinion, and I deliberately made him so. I reasoned that his true personality is more Gryffindor-ish, which is why throughout the story he'd been reacting with his fists and his wand, rather than his head. The result of this is that all his plans have gone pear-shaped and, as this chapter starts, he and Ginny are standing alone with both Voldemort and the Ministry after them.
The ending of this story reflects, I feel, Harry learning his lessons and (finally) behaving like a true Slytherin: he's sneaky, he has planned his final move out well and, above all, he's looking out for number one. I suspect some readers won't like this ending, but hopefully no one can deny that what Harry did was completely logical, bearing in mind the situation he was in.
Thanks to everyone who has read and reviewed, even the anonymous guest reviewers who left those badly spelt, angry rants during the early chapters: I giggled even as I was deleting them! Most importantly, thanks to Arnel who has been a tower of strength for me throughout this story. I don't know what I would have done without her.
"What was that?" Harry asked, looking up from the book he was reading in alarm.
Gellert was already on his feet and hurried to the front window. As soon as he looked out, a grim expression came onto his face.
"The day we feared has arrived, Harry," he announced. "It appears Voldemort has found us."
"What?" Harry gasped. "How?"
"How is irrelevant, my dear boy, the fact is that he is outside with a good dozen of his followers destroying the street house by house. It would seem that he only knows our general location, or else we have been staggeringly unlucky and he attacked this place by chance," Gellert smiled sternly. "Harry, get your emergency escape kit and get ready to leave by the backdoor. I can feel an Anti-Apparation Jinx already in place, so make your way across our neighbour's back gardens until you reach the fields. You should be outside of the Jinx's range by that point, and I suggest you make your way to Grimmauld Place initially."
"You will be coming with me, won't you?" Harry asked nervously.
"No, my dear boy, my time has come. You need someone to hold off Voldemort and his Death Eaters while you escape, and it is high time that this old Dark Lord faced his apparent replacement. I'm rather looking forward to showing the whelp that this old dog still has teeth," Gellert grinned.
"But…" Harry started to protest.
"No arguing," Gellert snapped. "I have been living on borrowed time since 1945, when Dumbledore should have put me out of my misery. Only having the chance to guide you through these difficult years has given my life any meaning. Besides, I yearn to see Paula once again."
"I can't do this without you, Gellert," Harry said emphatically.
"You can and you will," he replied sternly. "One other thing, Harry, you may be tempted to use the Resurrection Stone to bring me back on occasion. Please, do not. Once I leave this world I will have no desire to return to it. Promise me."
Harry stared at him in horror for a moment, before mutely nodding his head.
"Good, now grab your things and leave. I have work to do here," Gellert announced, pulling out his wand.
Harry rushed out the room only to return a minute later with a small rucksack on his back. "Gellert…" he began.
"Harry, we have no time for long good-byes. Know that I love you as if you were my own son. Now, go and fulfil your destiny," Gellert said firmly.
"I love you, too, and I'll never forget what you did for me," Harry replied, a single tear falling down his cheek. "Give that snake-faced bastard hell, Gelli."
And with that, the young man turned and ran out the backdoor. Gellert watched him go with a sad smile on his lips. That boy had quite literally saved his soul, he knew. He feared what Harry would have to go through in the coming years and hoped he would find someone to share that burden with.
A loud explosion somewhere close by roused him from his thoughts. Purposely, he strode to the window and blew out the glass with his wand. Just outside, a Death Eater looked over in surprise at the noise only to fall dead a second later as Gellert's first curse hit him.
"Over there!" someone shouted. "One of these vermin dares to try and fight back!"
Gellert almost laughed as a group of Death Eaters began to march towards the house menacingly. With a flick of his, he began to overload the protective magic that surrounded the house. Only his own power kept them in check for the moment, and should he fall they would, in all probability, explode. But first, he had to teach these fools a lesson.
A street away, Harry was busy climbing over a fence. Although Gellert had instructed him to get out of the village as fast as possible, he couldn't leave without Melinda. As a Squib, she would be helpless in the face of the Death Eaters and he refused to abandon her. As soon as his feet hit the pavement, he broke into a run.
Everywhere there was noise and confusion. Numerous buildings were burning and he could hear someone screaming behind him, but he didn't stop to look back. Running as fast as he could, he sprinted around the corner into the street where Melinda and her family lived, and came to an abrupt stop.
The block of houses in which the Cooke family lived was on fire. Numerous bodies lay in the street, probably cut down as they fled their burning homes. Feeling sick, Harry stumbled forward, forcing himself to look at each of the bodies in turn. With a horrible sense of inevitability, he soon came across Melinda. She was lying on her back, with an expression of pain and fear etched onto her face. Harry stared at her numbly, unable to process what he was seeing.
Suddenly, a tremendous explosion rent the air. He turned and saw a column of black smoke rising lazily into the air. Dimly, he realised the smoke was coming from the approximate location of his home. Gellert was gone.
A burning rage gripped him. Harry was struggling to breath properly, such was the intensity of the hate that filled him. All thoughts of escape vanished from his mind as he pulled his wand from his jacket.
He only wanted to do one thing now: kill Death Eaters. His mind was suddenly gripped by a strange calmness and he was filled with a fierce determination. Purposely, he began to walk back towards the fighting.
Harry sat at the small table crammed into the tiny kitchen of their Welsh cottage. Although Ginny hadn't said anything, he knew that she hated this place. The last two days had been rough on both of them, with each of them realising just how close things had come to them both being killed. If he'd lost Ginny… well, he didn't even want to think about that. His father had warned him that without her he risked turning into the next Dark Lord, and Harry was beginning to think that James Potter had been right.
A yawn from the doorway signified that Ginny had finally crawled out of bed and come in search of sustenance. He grinned at the sight of her blinking at him sleepily, dressed only in her thick, white dressing gown.
"Morning, love," he greeted her, climbing to his feet. "Let me get you some breakfast."
"Harry, I'm not an invalid, you know," she scolded him. "I'm quite capable of getting my own breakfast."
"I know, I just wanted to do something nice for you. You've had a rough time lately," he protested, sinking back down into his chair.
"Darling, you've been doing nice things for me since we got here," she smiled. "Come to think of it, you've been doing a lot of nice things TO me, as well."
"Yeah, well, that was for my benefit as much as yours," he grinned back.
"So, I was thinking," she began as she reached over to retrieve the frying pan from the hook it was hanging from. "I'm pretty-much fully recovered now. I think we should get back to work."
"I was just thinking the same thing," he admitted. "We'll have to be careful, though. I nipped out and got today's copy of the Daily Prophet and look at the headlines."
"Hmm, 'Madam Bones takes hiatus from position as Minister'. Is that how they're spinning it?" Ginny snorted.
"Yeah, not a word about her memory loss," Harry noted. "I suspect they're trying to keep a lid on just how badly things went wrong for them at Azkaban. Maybe they even think Bones can resume her position sometime in the future. What does interest me is who they've appointed as her temporary stand-in."
"Saul Croaker?" Ginny read. "I've never heard of him."
"Not many people have," he confirmed. "Croaker was a Senior Unspeakable working at the Department of Mysteries. Judging from what Bones told you, I suspect he's one of the few people in on the plan to capture Voldemort and drop him in the deep freeze."
"Makes sense," she agreed. "Do you think that plan will work? Maybe we should just let the Ministry get on with it rather than sticking our necks out."
"The thought did cross my mind, too," he admitted. "The problem is I think that their plan is too risky. When Voldemort vanished last time, his Death Eaters searched high and low for him. They captured and tortured loads of Ministry staff trying to find out what had happened to their lord and master. If Riddle vanishes again, they'll be even more persistent this time. Remember, he's seemingly risen from the dead once already, and his followers will have more faith in him should he vanish again. I just don't believe anywhere is completely safe. The Department of Mysteries has been infiltrated before; Rookwood is proof of that."
"So, we have no choice other than to carry on," she sighed.
"Yeah, but remember we have only one more Horcrux to find. I think it's time we stopped farting about with the minor Death Eaters and went straight for one of the inner circle," he announced.
"You have a plan," Ginny said, a slight smile coming to her lips.
"Do I ever, and if you rustle me up a bacon butty, I might even share it with you," Harry smirked.
Ginny hefted the flying pan in her hand, trying to decide if she should indeed cook him breakfast or just threaten to hit him with the bloody thing. In the end, she decided to be merciful and ten minutes later they were both tucking into a stack of bacon sandwiches while Harry explained what they were going to do.
Bellatrix Lestrange marched up to the gate of Malfoy Manor and stood in front of them with her hands placed imperiously on her hips.
"Open," she commanded and, to her minor gratification, the gates swung open instantly. With a self-satisfied smirk on her lips, she marched into the grounds of the large house.
She paused in front of the large front door. The place was looking a little worse for wear these days, unsurprisingly. Her Lord had abandoned Malfoy Manor as a headquarters shortly after Potter had been rescued by that damnable traitor Snape. With Lucius still incarcerated in Azkaban, Narcissa had been lucky not to lose her life after that fiasco. It was hardly her sister's fault that Snape had betrayed them, but as the only Malfoy conveniently to hand, she'd borne the brunt of the Dark Lord's displeasure. Now, while they used Goyle's country home as their base of operations, Narcissa lingered in her home, stripped of the Malfoy's wealth, and with only a few house-elves for company. Bella was unsurprised to receive her sister's pleading note, requesting that she come and visit her as soon as possible. She was probably getting desperate by this point.
Feeling irritated by her sister's fawning request which took her away from her real work, Bellatrix banged her fist loudly on the door. A second later, one of the family elves opened it and grovelingly bid her enter. She kicked the pathetic creature as soon she had imperiously marched in.
"Alright, stop following me, vermin. I know the way," she screeched at the poor thing as it tried to escort her. The elf whimpered and ran for its very life. With a cruel smirk on her face, Bella strode into the drawing room, where Narcissa traditionally greeted her guests. Sure enough, the regal blond was waiting for her.
"Dear Bella," Narcissa greeted her sombrely. "Thank you for coming."
"You'd better have a good reason for dragging me here, Cissy," Bellatrix growled at her sister. "Your name is mud these days."
"I know, and that's what I wanted to talk to you about," Narcissa replied in an unemotional voice. "But first, please, take a glass of wine with me. The wine cellar is one of the few pleasures I have left."
"Very well," Bella agreed, flopping down onto a nearby sofa. A few moments later, Narcissa approached with a glass of dark, red wine and offered it to her.
"So, what's this all about, Cissy?" Bella demanded, taking the glass from her.
"I have come up with a plan to get back into the Dark Lord's favour," she explained, walking back to the sideboard and picking up her own glass. "I have worked out a scheme to flush out that wretched miscreant Potter, which I am certain will work. Once I hand him over to the Dark Lord, the Malfoys will once again be in his favour."
"Really?" Bella asked suspiciously. It was unlike her sister to come up with such a plan. Organising lavish balls was more her style.
"Yes, but come; let us drink to our success," Narcissa declared, raising her glass to her lips and taking a slip.
Bellatrix was just about to follow her sister's example when she paused. Something was wrong here. Narcissa had never involved herself in her husband's schemes and plans, and Bella couldn't see her starting now. Besides, her sister was acting strangely. Normally, Cissy was much warmer and exuberant; today she was acting like she was in a haze, almost as if she…
With an angry yell, Bella threw the glass of wine away from her as hard as she could and went for her wand. Unfortunately for her, she was a second too late and a purple bolt of light struck her hard in the stomach. She screamed as she felt herself being ripped open, and she fell forward onto the expensive white rug that was on the floor. Gasping for breath, she looked down and saw blood gushing from the wound and staining the rug a dark, red colour.
"Cissy…" she croaked, looking up desperately at her sister who was standing impassively in front of her.
"It's alright, Lestrange, she'll be joining you in death very shortly," a male voice declared.
Desperately trying to keep her guts from slipping out on the floor, Bellatrix turned her head and saw the inscrutable figure of Harry Potter standing there, with his red-haired whore just behind. Weakly, she tried to grab her wand which was lying on the floor just in front of her.
"Now, now, Bella, none of that," Potter scolded her, walking over and kicking the wand away.
"You… aaaggh… bastard… Potter," she spat from between gritted teeth.
"What's the matter? Surely you've killed enough people that you can't be a stranger to death," the Weasley girl taunted her. "Just hurry up and die, please, you're making an awful mess on the rug."
"Just think of all the times you were torturing me, Bella dear, that you could have easily finished me off. If you'd just done that, you wouldn't be in the position that you are now, would you?" he smirked.
"Bastard…" Bella whispered, her strength failing her.
"Just hurry up and die," the red-haired girl scornfully said.
With the bitter taste of defeat on her tongue, Bellatrix slipped into darkness.
"Don't worry, bitch," Potter growled at her corpse. "I'll be speaking to you later."
Carefully, Moody pulled apart the branches of the bush he was hiding behind, and peered at the small, dilapidated cottage.
"Any sign of them?" Kingsley whispered to him.
"No, no movement, at all," Moody grumbled. "They're here though, I can feel it. This is the place."
"Perhaps one of the other teams has spotted them," Kingsley suggested. "After all, there were two other…"
"Wait!" Moody said abruptly, cutting off the large man mid-sentence. Ahead of him, perhaps fifty yards away, a young couple had suddenly appeared, seemingly out of thin air. They paused for a second, before heading into the cottage. Moody nearly split his face open he was grinning so hard. "It's them! Potter and Weasley just Apparated in and entered the house. We've got them."
"I'll send a Patronus to the others," Kingsley advised. "We'll have the whole area surrounded in minutes."
"Just tell them to be careful. We don't want our prey to get spooked," Moody advised.
Kingsley gave him a sour look, like he didn't appreciate being told his business, but did as he was instructed. Moody turned his attention back to the house and watched it intently. His magic eye could see into most of the house, although a few rooms were magically shielded from him. It didn't matter though; he could see the pair of renegades clearly.
It had taken nearly a week of solid investigation work, but they'd finally tracked down all of Potter's safe houses. Their big break had come when they'd looked into the purchase of the house in Bristol. Unbeknown to Potter, the Ministry had contacts in the Muggle police and it was they who had conducted the investigation into the purchase of the property. Finding a false paper trail under an obviously assumed name, they had dug further to see if any other houses had been purchased in the same manner. They soon struck gold, and found no less than three other properties bought using the same convoluted system.
Once the Ministry had been passed the details of the three properties, they had set up around-the-clock surveillance on them. Moody, however, had always felt that this would be the one that Potter ran to. After basing himself in the centre of a large Muggle city, he'd felt that Potter would change tactics and go for somewhere completely different. After all, the boy had proved he was skilful at remaining hidden in the past, so why underestimate him now? As always, Moody's instincts had proved to be correct.
It was half-an-hour later when Kingsley crawled over to him.
"Everything is in place," the large, dark man informed him. "We can raise the Anti-Apparation and Anti-Portkey Jinx the second you give the word."
"Okay, everyone knows what they have to do?" Moody asked.
"Yes, but I can't say I'm happy about this," Kingsley grumbled. "We should be trying to capture this pair alive, so we can interrogate them and find out exactly what they know."
"They know too damn much!" Moody growled. "You heard Croaker's orders; they are to be killed on sight. Potter and Weasley are just too bloody dangerous. You don't want another fiasco like Azkaban on our hands, do you?"
"I guess not, but this just feels… dishonourable, I guess," Kingsley replied sullenly.
"I'm not risking the life of another single Auror just so those two can have a trial they don't deserve," Moody spat. "Honour be damned, let's kill the bastards! Give the signal."
Wordlessly, Kingsley shot another Patronus from his wand, and seconds later they both felt a strange tingling sensation that signalled the Jinx was in place. Moody rose to his feet and pointed his wand at the cottage.
"Confringo!" he yelled, sending a Blasting Charm directly at the house. It hit one of the walls, blasting a neat hole in it and sending a shower of dust into the air. Seconds later, his curse was followed by dozens of others, as the twenty Aurors surrounding the building all opened fire.
"Lay it on thick!" Moody roared send another Blasting Charm towards the house, which was already disintegrating under the weight of fire. A number of the Aurors had chosen to shoot Incendiary Spells at the cottage, which was now also on fire as a result. For over five minutes the group hurled deadly curses at the small house, until barely a brick remained standing.
"Stop!" Moody shouted loudly and the spell fire ceased.
"Did we get them?" a breathless Kingsley asked.
"I can't see; too much debris in the way," Moody grumbled, before starting to shout again. "Get in there and find the bodies!"
"No one could have survived that," the dark-skinned Auror said confidently.
"Don't count your chickens until we find their corpses," Moody said sternly, but he felt sure that they'd done it.
Harry Potter was finally dead.
Nearly half a mile from the spot where Alastor Moody was gazing at the burning ruins of a cottage, a rusted corrugated-iron shed stood. Nobody had been near this place in nearly fifty years and the place was complete abandoned. It was something of a surprise, therefore, when a young man with jet-black hair smashed open the door to the shed from the inside and stepped out into the light.
He looked around him nervously, before heading back into the shed and helping a young woman out. She was obviously badly injured, and the young man gently lowered her to the ground.
"Lay still, Ginny, and let me cast a Diagnostic Spell on you," Harry said, a hint of panic in his voice.
"It hurts, Harry," the girl moaned, "oh, shit, it hurts!"
"You've got some internal damage," he declared anxiously after waving his wand over her. "I know a few Healing Charms that will help, and I've got a few potions that will definitely sort you out over time, but we can't stay here too long. They're bound to start a search when they don't find our bodies."
"What was that tunnel?" she asked between gritted teeth.
"Oh, this whole area use to be used for coal mining," Harry explained. "That cottage was built on top of a subsidiary shaft leading to a large pit. Once Gellert found that out, he thought it would make an excellent escape passage, and he was right. Here, drink this."
Harry gently pressed a bottle he had retrieved from his robes to her lips. She drank deeply and then sighed in evident relief.
"The potion will help, but you need serious bed-rest," he informed her.
"Where?" she asked, sounding drowsy already.
"I don't think we should risk any of the other safe houses," Harry mused. "I have no idea how they found us, as I checked Bones for Tracking Spells quite thoroughly. The only thing I can think of is they somehow linked the purchase of this place to the Bristol house. I daren't risk Grimmauld Place, either. I think we'll have to find a Muggle hotel."
"Whatever," Ginny moaned. "Just get us out of here."
"Okay, love, I'll have to Side-Along you, so brace yourself," Harry warned her.
Two hours later, Harry was sat pensively on a chair in a hotel room in Manchester. Ginny was tucked up in bed with a large, thick duvet pulled up to her chin. He'd managed to convince the receptionist that she was just feeling a bit under the weather, and they'd decided to spend the night in town rather than head home. The woman had bought their story and handed over the room key. It was a close thing as Ginny had collapsed in the lift heading upstairs. Now that she was in bed and had received another dose of Healing Potion, he was fairly certain she'd be alright.
He stood and gazed out the window. Darkness had fallen and the lights of the large city were spread out before him. In the relative calm of the room, he tried to figure out what had just happened.
They'd only had a few seconds warning before the cottage had started to explode around them. Fortunately, they both recognised the distinctive feel of an Anti-Apparation Jinx and it had given them just enough time to get to the hidden trapdoor. Ginny had been hit when part of a wall was blown out next to her, and Harry had just managed to drag her to safety before the ceiling collapsed. It had been a very close call.
It had proved one thing though: the Ministry wanted them dead. There had been no warnings or demands for them to surrender. Whoever had been out there had just opened fire. He'd briefly seen the distinctive robes of an Auror through a blown-out window as he ran for cover, so he knew it hadn't been Voldemort's forces who had attacked them. No, his own government was trying to kill him.
Sighing deeply, Harry thought of all the things that had gone wrong recently. It was becoming clear to him that he'd approached this whole venture incorrectly. His first mistake had been relying too heavily on his relationship with Rufus Scrimgeour and not fostering other alliances within the Ministry. He'd paid heavily for that error when Rufus had been killed.
Not making more effort to ingratiate himself with the press had been a huge mistake, too. True, he's done a few interviews prior to going to Hogwarts, but he should have taken the time to groom some suitable journalist and improve his public image. It had been far too easy for Bones to blacken his name.
Once he'd arrived at Hogwarts, he'd acted too rashly, he realised now. He should have been more subtle and picked fewer fights. Perhaps not allowing himself to be Sorted into Slytherin would have helped, as well, although he wasn't too regretful at that. It was doubtful he would he have developed his relationship with Ginny if he's been in any other house, after all.
Harry turned back and looked at the sleeping form of his lover. Once again, he'd come a hair's breadth to losing her. Her words from the previous week came back to him and, on the spot, he made a decision.
It was no longer worth it.
He'd lost nearly everything to try and defeat Voldemort. His family, both real and adopted, were dead, he'd been tortured and mutilated by that deranged bitch Lestrange, and now the Ministry were trying to kill him for trying to defeat Lord Voldemort. All he had left was Ginny, and he was damned if he was going to lose her, too. Maybe if Gellert hadn't died when he did, things would have been different, but without his knowledge and experience, Harry wasn't going to put the life of the girl he loved in danger any longer.
He sat back down and pondered his next move. If he was going to remove himself from the field of battle he needed to do it in such a way that he wouldn't spend the rest of his life looking over his shoulder. As he sat in the darkness, a plan began to form in his mind.
Lord Voldemort sat at the head of a large, highly-polished table, methodically working his way through a pile of documents stacked in front of him. The war was going well, and the recent departure of Amelia Bones had greatly helped. Her replacement, Saul Croaker, was an intelligent man, but one who clearly had little knowledge of politics. He'd already made several mistakes which Voldemort had been able to capitalise upon, and he was certain the man would make more. He decided that he really should thank Harry Potter the next time he saw him for incapacitating Bones. Naturally, he would kill the young man shortly afterwards, but manners cost nothing.
His concentration was disturbed by one of his most loyal servants, Antonin Dolohov, shoving a low-ranking Death Eater through the door. Voldemort could not even recall the young man's name but, judging by the fearful look on his face, the youth had committed some transgression. Idly, he wondered why Bellatrix wasn't escorting the young man, as this was the sort of thing she generally enjoyed. Come to think of it, he hadn't seen his favourite follower for a couple of days.
"My lord," Dolohov declared, "this worthless vermin has something he needs to tell you."
"Indeed? Well, I am at his immediate disposal," Voldemort announced with a slight smile. He was well aware that particular smile generally invoked terror in all who had the misfortune to see it.
"M…m…m…y…Lord," the young man stuttered. "To my shame, I must inform you that I was… captured today."
"Captured, you say? By whom?" Voldemort demanded.
"Harry Potter," the Death Eater replied fearfully.
The smile instantly left Voldemort's lips. "Potter? You say that Harry Potter captured you? How remarkable. I must confess, I find it somewhat strange that if such an event did indeed occur that you now stand before me, apparently unharmed. How did you escape?"
"I didn't, he… let me go," the young man said.
"Let you go?" Voldemort repeated in disbelief.
"He let me go on condition I delivered a message and an object to you," the Death Eater explained.
"What message? What object?" Voldemort snapped.
Slowly, the young man reached into his robes and removed what appeared to be a small mirror. "He says that he wants to talk," he said fearfully.
Voldemort stared at him for a moment before he began to laugh. "So, Potter has finally come to understand the futility of opposing me, has he?" he announced joyously. "Too little, too late, I suspect; but I will hear what he has to say. Dolohov, has the mirror been checked for traps?"
"Err… no, my Lord," the dark-haired man said, suddenly looking frightened.
"Fool! Do so quickly, and then leave my presence. I will deal with your stupidity later. You, boy, put the mirror down on the table and then go. I will think of a suitable punishment for you allowing yourself to be captured at my leisure," Voldemort ordered.
Both men scrambled to comply with their orders. The mirror appeared to be completely harmless, so Dolohov set it before his master and practically sprinted from the room. With a satisfied smile on his lips, Voldemort picked up the mirror and held it up to his face.
"Harry Potter," he said simply.
A second later, his reflection vanished and the face of his young enemy appeared.
"Hello, Voldemort," the young man greeted him.
"Why, hello to you, too, Harry. This is a most unexpected pleasure," he replied smugly.
"Before you say anything else, I know about the Taboo on your name and I realise that you are magically tracking me even as we speak. I'll save you the trouble. I'm on Dartmoor and have cast a number of spells so you can't pinpoint my exact location. Besides, I can be gone in a second if I hear anyone Apparate nearby," Potter explained.
"Sensible precautions," Voldemort noted grudgingly. "What is it that you want to talk about, young Harry? Do you wish to join me?"
"No, but I do propose a deal; a truce, if you will," he replied.
"A truce?" Voldemort noted with amusement. "Why should I even consider such a thing?"
"Because we both know that I'm the only person in the world who stands any chance of vanquishing you," Harry said firmly. "We are both subject to that damnable prophecy and even if you believe yourself unbeatable, you must realise there is a chance I might defeat you. I've taken out enough of your Death Eaters, after all, haven't I?"
"What exactly do you propose?" Voldemort hissed angrily.
"What I'm proposing is that I cease all hostile action against you and your followers. I will leave the country, and give a Magical Oath never to return. In exchange, I want a similar Oath from you that you won't try and find me, or seek to harm me in anyway," Harry explained.
Voldemort's eyes narrowed. "Why?" he demanded. "Why are you proposing this? I killed your parents, after all. Don't you want revenge?"
"What I want and what I get are two different things," Harry said bitterly, "and, frankly, I don't think the price I would have to pay is worth it. Why should I stick my neck out for a bunch of fools who have vilified me at every opportunity, and nearly executed the girl I love?"
"Ah, the Weasley girl," Voldemort pondered. "Isn't it strange how love makes weaklings out of men?"
"Weakling or not, I don't believe that I owe the Magical community of Great Britain a damn thing. Why should I struggle, and see all those I care about killed, for people who would spit in my face? No, you're welcome to this whole bloody country, Tom," he growled.
"But I don't just want this country, Harry, I want the world, and nothing can stand in front of that dream. Why should I take the risk, minor though it is, of leaving you alive?" Voldemort smiled menacingly.
"Why be impatient?" Harry asked. "You've said many times that you are immortal. I, however, am not. Like everyone else, I will grow old and die, and you will have won by default. I don't doubt that it won't take you long to take over this country, it's run by a bunch of idiots, after all, but expanding further will not be so easy. Once Britain falls, the rest of Europe, perhaps even the world, will unite against you. It will be a long, hard battle against them all, and you'll have to pick them off one by one. That's no great hardship to you; being immortal you have all the time in the world, don't you? But I suspect that I'll be dead and buried before the world falls entirely under your sway."
"How unlike your parents you are," Voldemort noted. "Your mother sacrificed herself so you could live, yet you will willingly stand aside and let me take over the world."
"The difference is that my mother loved me. I don't give two shits for any of the self-serving bastards in this country, and I doubt anywhere else is much different. I just want to have the opportunity to live a quiet, peaceful life, someplace nice, with Ginny, and everyone else can go to hell," Potter reasoned in a cold voice.
Voldemort considered the offer. He would dearly have loved to kill this impudent brat but, as the boy said, he was doomed to die, anyway. In a century at most, Potter would be rotting in his grave, while he, immortal and invincible, would forge an empire to last for eternity. Why risk that if he didn't have to? Besides, he relished the delicious irony that the people of Britain had forced out the one person who could have saved them.
"Very well, Potter, I believe we have a deal," Voldemort confirmed.
The second that they had exchanged their Magical Oaths, Harry cancelled the connection between the two mirrors with the promise that he would be out of the country within twenty-four hours. In truth, he could leave now, but he still had a few minor things he wanted to take care of first.
"I can't believe he agreed so readily," Ginny said stepping towards him.
"Why not? We've been the only effective force against him, and taking us out of the fight makes his life a whole lot easier. Besides, I think he liked the idea of me growing old and dying. I think that image appealed to him, since he believes it will never happen to him," Harry snorted.
"He's in for a bit of a shock, then, isn't he?" she grinned.
"Yeah, he is," Harry laughed. From his robes, he removed the blacked remains of Helga Hufflepuff's goblet: Voldemort's last Horcrux.
"You were right, taking out Lestrange was a good idea," Ginny noted. "I doubt we would have ever found that thing without her."
"Yeah, although Gringotts was a logical location, when you think about it," he agreed.
"So, what happens now?" Ginny asked.
"Well, as I understand it, in time, Voldemort's body will decay and wither, just like everyone else's does. He'll undoubtedly perform some spell or ritual to transfer his essence into a new body, only to find that his soul has no anchors to this realm of existence anymore. Simply put, he'll die, and the funny thing is that he'll have done it to himself," Harry grinned evilly.
"Ha! Serves the bastard right. Still, that does mean that we're handing him a free-reign to do what he likes for years to come," she pointed out.
"You never know, someone might get lucky and hit him with a good curse," Harry shrugged. "Without his precious Horcruxes, he'll die just like anyone else."
"True," she nodded. "So, are we leaving now?"
"I just want to tidy up a few lose ends," Harry explained. "We don't have much more to do, though. I've already cleaned out my vault at Gringotts and we've packed all our possessions. I just want to make sure we're not leaving any evidence of where we're going. After I've done that, we'll head to Grimmauld Place and pick up Kreacher."
"And start our new life," Ginny smiled.
"Yeah, I can't wait," he grinned back.
Two years later
The young couple climbed out of their expensive car and headed up the pathway towards the large townhouse. Property in this part of Boston was ridiculously expensive, but the house did have the advantage of being positioned close to the city's magical community, hidden away in the Beacon Hill district. Once they reached the front door, the young man knocked loudly twice. A few moments later, the door opened to reveal a tall, darkly-handsome man. He broke into a wide smile as soon as he saw the pair.
"Ah, the newly-weds return!" he cried happily. "Come in and tell me how the honeymoon went."
The young couple were ushered into the house by the exuberant man who guided them to a plush living room area. Drinks were arranged, and they sat down to talk.
"Anthea isn't here then?" the young man asked cautiously, looking around.
"No, she's nipped down to New York to visit some art gallery there. I suspect I'll be considerably poorer by the time she returns," he grinned, "So, don't worry, Harry, we can talk freely."
"That's great, Sirius. You know, I just never feel right calling you 'Michael' all the time," Harry smiled.
"I know what you mean," Sirius agreed. "So, come on, tell me everything about the honeymoon."
"Do you really want to know everything about it, Sirius?" Ginny smirked. "A lot of it was pretty X-rated, you know."
"That's alright, my dear, I'm a pretty X-rated sort of bloke," Sirius leered.
"Pervert," Harry laughed. "We'll give you the edited highlights of our trip in a moment. But firstly, I want to get back up to speed. What's been happening around here while we've been away?"
"Oh, the usual," Sirius said with a wave of his hand. "Our investments continue to skyrocket in value. Did you know, we've made over thirty thousand dollars just since I started the beginning of this sentence? Oh, it's such a terrible burden being rich!"
"I'm sure we'll manage," Ginny said firmly. "Now, what about that little scam we set in place before we left? Did the Department of Magic suspect anything?"
"Not a thing. Normally I don't approve of blackmail, but I'm prepared to make an exception for that slime ball. Having someone that well connected in our pocket will definitely pay dividends later on," Sirius announced smugly. "By the way, did you hear the news from Britain?"
"No, we didn't really spend much time reading newspapers," Harry grinned.
"I bet," Sirius chuckled. "Anyway, Amelia Bones was killed last week."
"Not really a surprise, is it? They must have been desperate to make her Minister for Magic again. I mean, she lost twenty-five years' worth of experience, how could they possibly think she'd do a good job?" Ginny snorted in disgust.
"I don't think they had much choice by that point. It's a miracle Voldemort hasn't taken complete control already," Sirius noted glumly. "Anyway, I think that was the last straw. The I.C.W. is talking about intervening, so you can imagine how bad things have become. The world would have to be ending for those old duffers to do anything. No, I fear the magical community in Britain has just about had it."
"Not our problem," Harry shrugged. There was no one left in his country of birth that he cared about anymore, not since he'd received word that Michelle and her family had managed to escape to France, anyway.
"No, although America has provisionally agreed to send forces to support any campaign. It looks like there'll be all-out war soon," the older man noted sadly.
"As Harry said: not our problem," Ginny said fiercely. "They had their chance to end all this and if they'd just backed us then, none of this would have happened."
"I know, it just all seems a senseless waste," Sirius bemoaned. "Oh, I must tell you something that will make you laugh. I saw Severus Snape the other day! He was in town on a visit and I ran into him. Can you guess where he ended up?"
"Not a clue," Harry confirmed.
"Texas! He's running an Apothecary shop in the magical sector of Dallas. Can you imagine a man less suited to living in a place like that?" Sirius laughed.
"Bloody hell," Ginny giggled. "Did he have a tan?"
"Yes, and even more amazingly, he had a wife, too!" Sirius said, barely able to contain himself.
"No!" Harry gasped. "Please tell me she wasn't a red-head."
"Nah, she looked Mexican, actually. Rather a pretty woman, I thought," he smirked.
"Don't let Anthea hear you talking about other women," Ginny warned.
"No, my life wouldn't be worth living," Sirius nodded in agreement.
"Well, I'm glad he's doing okay," Harry noted.
"You did say that the move could be a good thing for him, and it looks like you were right," Ginny pointed out.
"I think it was a good thing for all of us. We've built a wonderful life for ourselves here, and I wouldn't change anything," Harry said adamantly.
"I agree, love," Ginny agreed warmly, taking his hand in hers.
Harry gazed at his beautiful wife of just a few weeks. Truly, the last two years had been fantastic. Once they had settled into their new identities, they had found a beautiful home and built up a strong business network that spanned a dozen companies each with a multi-million dollar turnover. Perhaps using magic to influence Muggle business deals wasn't exactly ethical, but Harry felt that karma owed him big time. Lately, they had begun to extend their influence into the Wizarding community here in America with promising results. His life had taken a definite upturn since he left Britain, and he hadn't had to face Voldemort to achieve it.
All was well.