Understanding

A/N – sorry about the delay!

Chapter 17 – How the mighty have fallen

'Ah, Hermione.' Albus said solemnly. 'It's good to see you safe and well. I advised Severus not to leave but clearly, he made the right decision after all. Did you successfully deliver the potion?' I nodded. 'Excellent.' He said, his eyes regaining some of their twinkle. 'Everyone is preparing to leave in around ten minutes. Hermione, you will be a part of what I have named the principal infiltration force.' His eyes regained a lot of their twinkle when he said that. 'It is comprised of eight individuals: myself, you, Harry, Severus, Sirius, Minerva, Arthur Weasley and Alastor Moody. We will apparate to directly outside the Riddle House and enter. One other group will deal with any stray Death Eaters, another will try and convert the Dementors over to the light side. The final group, which Ron here is a part of, will break down any forces in existence over the vicinity of the building, allowing us complete control of all happenings within the grounds. Do you understand?' He finished, picking up his wand from the table beside him.

'Yes, I understand.' I replied.

'Good. Maybe you had better transfigure your attire into something more, um, appropriate?' Albus said, winking at me.

'Er, yes. Sorry.' I said, blushing. I pulled out my wand from the front of my dress and transfigured it into a set of plain black work robes. I slipped my wand into the sleeve and the five of us walked out into the Entrance Hall, where what looked like everyone from the dinner last night was gathered. I knew that what we were about to do would either make or break the entire Wizarding world as I knew it, but there was nothing I could do but put those thoughts to the back of my mind and go for it. The gravity of the situation seemed to be only just hitting me. This sort of thing had been part and parcel of living in this world for me, getting involved in the crossfire of Voldemort's plots to come back to power, and later his plots to capture Harry and take over Hogwarts. But this time was different, this was a direct assault on Voldemort, and I was directly involved.

I felt slightly sick with anticipation now, but the knowledge was always there that I was a witch, I belonged in this world and I wouldn't have it any other way. Other people in my situation may have complained about the pressure they had been under since such a young age, but I knew that without the experiences and difficulties I had been through in my life, I wouldn't be the person I am now. Being constantly in danger and all the people close to me, as well as myself, having their lives in jeopardy had helped me to realise what's important. I had no doubt that if Voldemort hadn't kept up his threatening presence throughout my school years, the most important things in my life would be drastically different to those that exist now. I did watch some muggle television during the holidays at home, but it sickened me, sometimes, to see the importance placed on prejudices, even in the muggle world, and the significance of all the wrong things, money, power and looks, whereas the things I now knew to be more important: honesty, loyalty and friendship to name a few, seemed to pale in comparison. What sickened me even more was the thought that, if my life had followed a different path, all the wrongs things may have been important to me, too. Far from wishing Voldemort had never been born, I knew that as much death and sorrow he had caused to my world, his presence had had a positive effect on my life. Things were there that never could have existed without him. I had found love where no one could ever have thought it possible, with Severus. All of the powerful witches and wizards of the age had come together, forgetting their differences, to fight against the dark as a group.

I smiled to myself as the whole group moved outside of the castle and towards the front gates to Apparate. My group would be the last to Apparate, the group with Ron in it would be the first. They gathered in a group to the left of the gate, and I smiled my goodbye at Ron before he disapparated, and he smiled back at me as he disappeared with a faint pop. Then the second and third group got ready and disapparated themselves. Then my group were the only people left. We gathered in a circle, I was between Severus and Harry, and we linked arms and apparated as a group to around a hundred feet from the Riddle House. Severus took the lead; he and I were obviously the only ones who had been here before, although Harry was glancing up at the building with a glimmer of recognition in his eyes.

We all followed in silence. Inside it was as cold as earlier, and as dark. There was no sign of anyone on the stairs down into the dungeons; I supposed that the other groups were taking care of that. My heart was nervously thumping in my chest as we slowly descended into the depths of this old building. Severus turned around somewhere near the bottom, reaching for my hand and giving it a quick squeeze before going on down the final flight of stairs. Harry was beside me, his face showing a courage and determination I hadn't seen before. As a group we reached for our wands and held them before us as we stepped into the cavernous room I had been in earlier that morning. The chair that had been facing the fire was now facing outwards; Voldemort was sitting in it, a grim smile on his face which contorted it unnaturally. He began to laugh as we moved across the room, a high cold laugh that sent shockwaves of repulsion through me, making me feel as thought I was going to be sick. Dumbledore now stepped out from behind me, to my shock he was smiling, his eyes twinkling.

'Well, well, well, Tom. I fail to see what is so funny.' He said levelly.

'Tom has not been my name for a long, long time.' Voldemort answered coldly. 'I was just laughing to myself about the perfection of the situation. Just as I am contemplating the best way to conquer Hogwarts, all that was standing, however weakly, in my way, has presented itself right in front of me to do as I wish. Now the most difficult decision remains. Who do I dispose of first?' He twirled his wand around, his eyes cold and cruel.

'Indeed, Tom. However, your arrogance once again will be your undoing.'

'My arrogance? How can one possibly be arrogant when they are the greatest wizard ever to grace this earth, with the only possible exception of my great ancestor, Salazar Slytherin? Since I am immortal, how can your collection of mismatched students and teachers possibly pose a threat? Now, now. Who to kill first? Perhaps I will give the Potter boy the last duel of his life, and show the rest of you just what I can do. Yes … boy, step forward, and I will finish off the one thing that has eluded me these last 17 years.' He looked expectantly at Harry, who froze, not with fright, but with disgust.

'No, I won't step forward. Why don't you step over here, Tom?' Harry said, staring right back into his gleaming red eyes.

'I, step over to you? I don't think so. You are speaking to Lord Voldemort, Potter. Mere chance has kept you alive all these years. Chance did not play a part in keeping my life immortal. I have met my destiny. Here, now, with your friends watching, you shall meet yours.'

'As you wish.' Harry said slowly. Then, quick as a flash, he took his wand over his head and brought it down to face Voldemort, shouting 'Expelliarmus!' I knew that he didn't intend to hit Voldemort with his spell, but he wanted two spells to collide in mid air to engage the two wands into working against one another. Sure enough, Voldemort brought his own wand down through the air, shouting out some Latin I had never heard before. Ghostly blue light burst from his wand, crashing into the red light from Harry's wand between the two. A crack like a gunshot sounded as the two spells hit, and dazzling violet light exploded all around them. Threads of the light then cascaded around from the beam connecting the wands, forming a sort of shell around Harry and Voldemort. A look of grim determination was on Harry's face as he gripped his wand, which I could see was vibrating in his hand. Across from him, Voldemort was looking both shocked and angry, but another look was shining in his red eyes. Fear.

A brighter bead of light was balancing precariously in the centre of the web of light, almost as though it was liquid. I could almost feel Harry's concentration in trying to move that bead of light, but it was stood still in the middle of the beam. My heart dropped to the pit of my stomach when the bead began to slide, slowly at first, then gathering speed, towards Harry's wand. I could sense Harry's determination, but it just wasn't enough against this man at the height of his powers. I hadn't a clue what would happen if the light touched Harry's wand first. He hadn't taken the potion, so he should not loose his powers, but what damage would be done? The light droplet was gliding down the beam now, as the whole thing vibrated violently. An inch from Harry's wand, it stopped, quivering, before it plunged into his wand. The violet light all around exploded with the sound of gun fire again, and Harry flew backwards, slamming against the wall, his wand falling to the floor a few feet in front of him.

'Harry!' I screamed, darting forward.

'Hermione!' I heard Severus shout behind me. 'Get out of the way!'

I skidded on my knees to where Harry lay, feeling a white hot curse skim over the top of my head. I saw Harry's wands lying near, and made a split second decision. I had no idea if this would work or not. I grabbed the wand with my left hand, my own still held in my right. I waved both of them over my head, yelling the first spell that came into my head as they came down. Two bolts of golden light surged out of the two wands, smashing into an arc of silver light rushing towards me from Voldemort's wand. I hadn't known if this would work or not. My own wand contained the tail feather of a phoenix, though which phoenix I did not know. I held my breath as golden light exploded from where the curses had hit, splintering around in a kind of golden web. Almost immediately both wands began to vibrate violently. But I was not going to give up. With both of these wands channelling my power, could I force the light into Voldemort's wand? I stared at the light bead which had formed in the centre, with concentration I had never before felt coursing through my body.

As I forced the light bead away from me, inch by inch, an eerie sound filled my ears. It was the most beautiful and the most bizarre sound I had ever heard, an unearthly music that could not be described. I knew immediately what it was. Harry had told me about the song of a phoenix, and I had read about it, of course, but nothing could have prepared me for it. It gave me a peacefulness I had never before felt, and gave me a power I could feel coursing around my body. I could tell straight away that the song of the phoenix did not give the same effect to Voldemort. His concentration had clearly been distracted away from the web of light, and he was glancing around, his eyes nervously jerking as if to see where the noise was coming from. Of course. The phoenix will always be a help to those who are pure of heart, and a hindrance to those who are not. Whatever happened, the phoenix would always be on my side, wherever it was.

This thought filled me with a strength I could never have imagined. All else in the room had disappeared, all that mattered was that I get the bead of golden light to penetrate the end of Voldemort's wand. I could feel that the power had now swung, it was on my side. It was not just me standing here now, but the lives of all of the good witches and wizards who lived every day in fear of their lives, and all of the lives snatched away by the cruel, twisted man standing opposite me. The power was flooding through me as the light slipped and glided down the beam of liquid gold, very slowly. The wands beneath my fingers were red hot, vibrating fiercely as I channelled all of the power into them.

The bead of light continued to move as the beam trembled and splintered, but never broke. Voldemort watched in a sort of horrified wonder as the light paused an inch from the tip of his wand. He seemed to be willing it to move back, but I was willing it forward with all my strength. Suddenly the light surged forward into his wand, and the web of light around us splintered and vanished. Voldemort was suddenly lifted into the air, spinning around like a sneakoscope, while what seemed to be droplets of dark green and silver light burst from his, dissolving in mid air. He was being lifted further into the air, spinning faster and faster, before he fell, abruptly, crashing to the floor. His wand landed with a clatter beside him, now no more than a stick of wood.

'Well, well, well, Tom. How the mighty have fallen.' Said Dumbledore, his blue eyes twinkling in the dark.

A/N – remember, Voldemort isn't dead, he's just lost his magical powers.

Yay! I have exactly 100 reviews! Congratulations to Selania Slytherin, who was my 100th reviewer!

Thank you to mashnut, Ponine, ChishionoTenshi, Static Wolf, kittykat52788, DragonFireAngelVWP, snapesophelia and Selania Slytherin. Very sorry indeed but I don't have time to write individual comments, will try to with next chapter, but I have to walk my dog and have my lunch and get this chapter up! Only have time to tell kittykat52788 that we call them crisps in Britain!! Anyway, everyone review this chapter, and I must remind that there are only three weeks to go until I get my hands on my copy of HP + OOTP!!!!!!!! I can hardly contain my excitement. The only bad point is that when I've read it I might have to wait another three years till I get my hands on book 6! Bye.