XXXII. Fear and Loathing on Level Eleven

1 June, 1979

Dumbledore Apparated them to the front stoop of a grand Georgian house before Harry could take another breath. The headmaster swept inside without knocking.

A blonde woman holding a sleepy toddler rushed over. "They're gathering in the drawing room."

Mad-Eye Moody suddenly stalked through the front door behind him, followed closely by two women Harry recognised as Order members who'd gone 'undercover' in the Head.

No one spoke.

Inside a rather opulent drawing room, a crowd of people, some familiar to Harry, some not, were talking furiously in small groups. He spied James, Lily, and Sirius, Jinky Fenwick's son, and, off in a corner next to a lanky woman, his old Nines partner Will Armstrong.

"Hey, good to see you," Will muttered as Harry left Dumbledore's side and joined his friend. "Harry, this is Dorcas Meadowes, a friend from Hogwarts. Dory, Harry Aberforth." The woman nodded. "You know what's going on?"

"Prisoners escaping from the Ministry," Harry murmured, staring at the door as Professor McGonagall bustled in with the Prewett brothers in tow.

Although Fabian caught his eye and smiled, Gideon just looked at Harry with that damned inscrutable expression of his.

Suppressing a frown, Harry focused on Dumbledore instead, who was conversing rapidly with Moody. He watched as the arriving Longbottoms, clad in their red Auror robes, joined them.

After a few minutes of hurried discussion, Dumbledore turned to the expectant crowd, which now numbered about thirty.

"My friends, I have grave news. Before losing contact, Auror Abernathy alerted Alastor that there has been a mass breakout of the Ministry holding cells. So far as we can tell, all one hundred and twenty-two prisoners were freed as of about eight minutes ago."

He paused as the room gasped.

"Fortunately, someone at the Atrium guard station was alerted by the Prewetts' wonderful clock and instigated the emergency lock-down. At present, all Floos are unavailable, and unauthorized Apparition and Portkeys are prevented. However, we have intelligence that, prior to the lockdown, a group of people did infiltrate the Ministry by means unknown. These are, I'm afraid, almost certainly Death Eaters."

"What do they want, Albus?" a pale Minerva McGonagall asked.

The headmaster shook his head. "We do not know. Our limited information suggests only that the prisoners and these Death Eaters are still in the Ministry, and we can only infer that they have commenced hostilities. As it is late on a Friday evening, there should be fewer Ministry employees present, making it all the easier for them to gain control of the building." He surveyed the stunned Order. "We must not let this happen."

Harry found himself nodding.

"We shall form several teams of three, each team under the command of a Ministry employee with clearance, and divide our forces. Half will come with me to my office in the ICW, to which I retain authorised Portkey access. The other half will go with Auror Moody to the Security Apparation station in the Atrium. Team captains will communicate through Auror Lapel Pins—those captains who are not Aurors may retrieve one from Alastor."

He surveyed the room, his face grave. "Questions?"

Lily raised her hand tentatively. "Sir, if the DMLE is compromised, what are the...the limits to our use of force?"

The room became very, very still.

Albus closed his eyes. "I must leave that to your best judgement. However, I sincerely doubt any of our members will be prosecuted for defending the Ministry, their comrades, or themselves."

Harry bit his lip. That's not enough direction, dammit!

From the fidgeting of some of the others, he suspected the sentiment was shared.

"Before we divide," the headmaster continued in a less subdued voice, "please note that three new individuals are in attendance tonight, all of whom have been cleared by me. If you do not know them, please—"

"Don't curse them!" Fabian grinned.

"Quite, Mr. Prewett. They are Mr. William Armstrong, Mr. Harry Aberforth, and Mr. Benjamin, ah, Benjy Fenwick."

The new recruits nodded curtly. Harry tried not to notice Alice and Gideon giving him sidelong glances, and instead returned Lily's small half-smile.

"Now, form teams, and quickly!"

Harry looked immediately at Will, who grinned. Yeah, this isn't anything new for us.

"Dory? You be our Ministry captain?" Will asked. "I've fought with Harry before. He's solid."

The woman raised an eyebrow and inclined her head before going to get whatever an Auror Pin was.

Will watched her go. "We'll probably have to watch out for her, Harry. She wasn't a bad dueler in school, but she works for the Accidental Magical Reversal Squad now. I'm not sure how much real action she's seen."

He nodded absently, sighing with relief when Lily and James joined Moody. Sirius paired with a pretty woman whom Harry vaguely recognised—Maria? Marlene?—and then joined Frank Longbottom. Alice stood with the Benjy, the other new recruit, and a woman with feathered blonde hair.

Don't look at Gideon, don't look at Gideon.

Turning to Gideon, he wasn't surprised to see him stick with Fabian, but he narrowed his eyes when their Ministry captain, some woman who'd been with them at the Head before, stood awfully close to his boyfriend.

Ex-boyfriend.

He shook his head. I don't have time for this.

"All right, gather with either myself of Alastor. And good luck to you all."

Harry and Will followed Dorcas to Dumbledore's side of the room, where they were joined by Frank's team—Sirius blew a kiss at Harry—and a team with two unknown men and Professor McGonagall. Two other groups came up as well, but Harry knew none of their members.

All grabbed the long piece of rope that Dumbledore produced with an encouraging smile. "Portkey on three, two, one—"

xoxoxox

It was absolutely silent in Albus' posh ICW office. Harry wasn't sure what he had expected—fire, smoke, screaming—but the darkened room, lit only by a few candles burning red for the lockdown, seemed all the more unnatural for its stillness.

When the headmaster turned to address them, he was every bit the general. Harry's breath caught in his throat.

"Mr. Longbottom, Ms. Meadowes, we must know if the DMLE has held out against attack. Your teams are to go to up to Level Two to survey the situation. Liaise with any Aurors you find on duty. Mr. Constans, Mr. Criddle, take your teams down one level to the Department of Magical Transportation and assess the condition of the national Floo system. Edgar, with Minerva on your team, I want you to concentrate on defending the lifts. Shut down all of them but three, and use whatever means you deem necessary to ensure our ability to move in the Ministry and to stymie our opposition's. I shall search the executive offices for Millicent Bagnold and any others who may be of service to us or in need of rescue."

His words were met with only silent nods and grave eyes.

"I wish I could tell you what dangers to expect out there, my friends," Dumbledore sighed. "But good luck. Good luck to us all."

xoxoxox

The gold-patterned carpet of Level Five dampened the sound of their footsteps as the teams headed through the darkened hallways towards the lifts.

"Every team in an elevator," the man named Edgar ordered. "Minerva, after they're where they need to go. start shutting most of them down. Frank, take your elevator to the Aurors' entrance of the DMLE. Meadowes, have your team go to the Visitors' Entrance."

The tall woman next to Harry nodded, and together he, Dorcas and Will trooped into the closest lift. Harry's knuckles turned white as they rose, swooped, and zigzagged through a labyrinthine tunnel system until finally creaking to a stop.

"Level Two, Department of Magical Law Enforcement, Visitor's Entrance," the posh female voice intoned.

Darkness and silence.

From the lift Harry spied a long glass wall straight ahead of them through which he could make out the shadows of cubicles. The wall was framed by a number of ornate marble columns, all topped with busts of men and women he assumed were famous for something or other.

He glared as the heads slowly turned and opened their eyes, staring down at the team with eerie indifference.

"I guess…I guess all the Aurors are fighting elsewhere in the Ministry," Dorcas murmured, "though someone really should always be stationed in the main office. Abernathy was on duty but…"

Harry gripped his wand more tightly.

One of the busts smirked at him.

"Right then. We have to check to make sure the Aurors haven't been ambushed inside," Dorcas continued in a tight voice "I'll take point. Aberforth, you take central position and do forward shields. Will, rear guard."

The more offensive point position would have been his first choice. She had never fought with him before though, so he said nothing and shadowed Dorcas as she cast a series of detection spells on the double glass doors.

"It's clear."

The outer office of the DMLE, lit only by the red glow of a few candles, was as silent as the rest of the Ministry. Everything seemed to be in order, as if all the Aurors had simply left for the weekend or were out in the field.

As they passed the third row of cubicles and drew near the center of the room, Dorcas gasped. "Abernathy!"

A young man in Auror robes was lying prone in a thick pool of blood. Harry heard an unnatural, high-pitched whine the moment the woman approached the body.

It's like the Chamber. Tripline, fuck!

Without thinking he snapped up his strongest all-purpose shield in front of Meadowes and summoned her to himself wandlessly.

"Harry, what the hell—"

Will's cry was cut off by the world exploding.

xoxoxox

Harry blinked his eyes open and saw only fire and rubble.

"—ry!"

Huh? He shook his head dazedly, trying to clear away the confusion.

Wait…is someone shouting?

"Harry! Come on, mate, we gotta get out of here!"

Will. That's Will...Fuck, we're in the DMLE and everything

"Dammit, Harry!" A hand wrenched him up by his armpit. "Everything's coming down. Your shield fell!"

Clarity washed over him as waves flames began to surround them.

"Will—Dorcas?" he coughed through the smoke.

"Got her out, now get moving!"

The other man half-dragged him into the hallway, slamming and sealing the glass doors behind them, even as a crest of flames rushed headlong in their wake.

From the hallway floor, both men sent desperate spells designed to retard fire at the wall. In seconds, nothing was visible in the DMLE but the undulation of a tower of flames against the glass.

Jesus, fuck.

Get up, get up!

"Those charms won't hold that long, we have to get out of here, Harry!"

"Dorc—" he started, glancing over towards the woman who was laying face down on the carpet.

Will looked away and frantically pressed the lift button. "She's—she's gone. Your shield was good, b-but that was one hell of an explosion."

Goddammit all.

Harry crawled over, trying not to notice the gashes and burns that ravaged the woman's body as he turned her on her back and gently closed her eyes.

A moment later he ripped the woman's outer robe from her body. He slung it around his shoulders and answered Will's unvoiced shock at this actions. "There's some sort of Auror communicator thing on this, right? We need it."

Fractures began to snake across the glass.

"Yeah, Will, it's time to go."

Suddenly Frank Longbottom's staticky voice broke into his head. "Dorcas! What the fuck is going on over there?"

Er…

Harry fumbled on the bloody robes until he found a metal pin. What the hell. He held onto it and thought as hard as he could.

"Frank? Frank, can you hear me?"

"…Harry?"

"Yeah. Dorcas is gone. Massive explosion. Whole place is probably rigged with spells. If you're in there somewhere, get out now!"

"Got it. Head to the Atrium, I guess. Fighting going on there. If you haven't worked it out yet, if the pin's on you, you can hear us. To send messages, just hold it and focus on who you want to talk to."

Will was still hitting the button for the lift, his face desperate, as a few tendrils of smoke escaped into the hallway.

Harry stared in horror at the buckling glass that separated them from a tidal wave of flames.

"Anytime now mate…"

A massive crack suddenly shrieked across the glass wall of the DMLE.

He grasped the metal pin again. "Uh…Edgar! We need a lift on Level Two like now!"

A man's breathless voice cut into his head. "Little busy right now, whoever you are! Hold position."

The glass started to bubble under the blistering heat.

Well fuck this!

He and Will shared a glance. As one they sent spells to force the lift grate open.

"After you, mate," Will panted.

Harry led the way into the pitch-black lift tunnel.

xoxoxox

This makes no sense.

Jogging through the shaft by the dim light of two Lumos spells, Harry could only shake his head. He'd expected to have to conjure ropes and start climbing down the tunnel, since he distinctly recalled feeling like the lift had carried him up to Level Two.

But the tunnel simply stretched out horizontally.

A sudden explosion behind them echoed through the shaft.

"Shite, there went the DMLE!" Will shouted and took off.

Harry imagined the wall of fire headed their way. Yeah. Must run faster.

Moments later, he and Will rounded an innocuous-looking bend to the left and—

"AAAAAH!"

Harry's scream joined his partner's.

Although their feet should have been planted safely on the floor, they suddenly found themselves plummeting sideways at breakneck speed through the faint clouds of turquoise mist that filled the shaft.

Before he could think, the tunnel veered to the right, and now his stomach insisted he was falling upwards, desperately clawing at what had been the ceiling.

"What the fuck Harry?" Will screamed, his falling form blurred by the fog.

"Gravity's gone wonky!" he called back as his stomach lurched again.

"No, really?"

The pair were rapidly approaching a bend in the shaft. Harry desperately called out an Arresto Momentum...that did absolutely nothing.

He could only scrunch his eyes closed and wait for the slam of his body against stone.

And then they somehow turned mid-fall, his shoulder scraping what had been the floor as he continued falling in yet another direction.

It's the blue mist, it's something to do with the mist, his mind shrieked.

He had a hazy memory of hanging upside-down in a yellow fog...

. . .

The third task...the upside-down mist!

Please be like that.

He closed his eyes and forced himself to believe he was walking perfectly normally, feet firmly on the ground like they should be.

His face immediately met the 'floor' of the shaft.

Actually, this looks to be one of the walls, but whatever.

God, no wonder Dalcop drinks as much as he does if he has to spend his days in this place.

Shaking his head, he got to his feet and ran at a neat ninety degree angle from the floor in the direction Will was still falling.

"Will! It's the mist! You have to believe that gravity's working right! Close your eyes and imagine it!"

"Are you insa—?"

"Do it!"

"Christ, Harry, I can't just—"

"Now, Will!"

A tense moment of silence was followed by a heavy thunk up ahead. Harry crested a turn and had to fight another change in gravity as the shaft veered downwards but Will was somehow sitting on the ceiling, nursing his shoulder.

"Wizards can be really fucked up, mate" Will muttered darkly.

Too right, that.

Harry helped his friend to his feet. "Guess the gravity mists or whatever are why people in the lifts aren't, I dunno, falling all over the place when the shaft bends?" He shrugged. "Anyway, come on, we need to head—er—downish?"

Will gave him a look that begged him to explain exactly which way was 'downish,' but Harry was saved by the voice of Edgar Whoever suddenly in his head.

"We've got a lift coming for youfigure you must be Dorcas' team on Level Twosorry for the delay but we had a spot of trouble. Take it down to Level Nine. More are needed lower than the Atrium."

He sighed in relief. "It's okay, Will. Lift is coming."

Will's eyes widened as he looked around the perfectly square tunnel.

A horrible sound, both thunderous and screeching, rumbled from what he assumed was below them.

"Harry…the lift takes up the whole shaft."

The rumbling grew louder.

Oh, that's seriously not good.

"Cancel the lift Edgar! We're in the shaft! Stop it!" he screamed in his mind.

"Shit! Get the fuck out of there, kid, they take a few floors to brake!"

"He said they take a few floors to brake," Harry repeated dumbly.

The pair looked at each other and started to run away from the noise.

"You know a spell that can help with this?" he shouted at Will. "Impedimenta?"

"Your funeral, Harry!"

Behind them a lift barreled into sight even as its brakes sheared the walls with pink and green sparks.

Come on, Dalcop, tell me you serviced the lift recently.

Racing headlong, Harry spied a large arch in the floor ahead of him with the words Level Four: Department for the Control and Regulation of Magical Creatures, Beings Division written above a grated entrance.

He and Will spared each other another glance. A volley of spells forced the grate open and they jumped down, only to fall sideways onto the floor of the department. A heartbeat later the lift screamed past.

"Y'know," Will wheezed, "I'm not sure I want to join the Order anymore."

"You realise we haven't even fought anyone yet?" Harry laughed a little hysterically.

And then he looked up.

What the hell?

He felt Will tense beside him as his own body froze in horror.

No.

Eight identical figures in Unspeakables' uniforms stared down at him.

"We know all about you," one said softly.

No.

"We know where you're from."

Another stepped forward. "We know who you really are."

No, please.

"You're done helping here," a fourth said with relish.

Harry's wandhand was shaking uncontrollably.

Another Unspeakable opened his mouth to speak.

But then he promptly turned into a pregnant woman.

"Dean? Dean, what's going on?" Her voice was frail and hollow, the front of her blue dress stained with thick streams of blood.

"No! This c-can't be real!" Will gasped next to him.

The sixth and seventh Unspeakables shifted into the same, bleeding woman. "Why weren't you here, Dean?"

"They came with sticks in their hands, saying funny words…I needed you, where were you?"

"Noooo!" his friend screamed, his eyes bulging wildly.

Harry suddenly understood exactly what was happening.

There's no way we can laugh right now.

He had to look away from the triad of dying girls, even though he knew they weren't real.

"Depulso!"

The spell sent the Unspeakables and the pregnant women cartwheeling in the air down the hall and through an open doorway. With a flick of his wand Harry shut and sealed the door.

Will was gasping on the floor.

"Hey, Will, it's okay! Those were just boggarts, just boggarts mate! It's okay! We're in the Beings Division, remember? They, I dunno, they must have been stored here and gotten out somehow."

His partner burst into tears.

Harry stared, completely at a loss what to do with a sobbing adult. He awkwardly started rubbing Will's back, repeating "It wasn't real, Will, just boggarts," in the sort of low, comforting voice he used on distressed goats and weepy drunks.

After a few minutes, Will's sobs began to subside. "Shit, suh-sorry, mate. Really. She…she's my girl, you know? And she just told me last week about the baby, an' I—an' I still haven't told her about magic or even my real name…just want to keep her away from all this shit, yeah?"

Harry nodded and tried to give him a reassuring smile, though Will's confession struck him more deeply than he'd like. "Yeah. Fucking boggarts." He patted the man's shoulder and stood up. "I'm going to tell Edgar we need the lift on this floor, just take a second."

His back was turned and his mind on his communication when Will spoke up again in a strangely slow voice.

"Um…Harry…I'm not actually that scared of dogs."

"Yeah, sending another up to you now. Nine is secure, Ten's bedlam. Get there." Edgar ordered.

"Huh? What was that Will?"

"I'm…not…scared…of…dogs…"

"What're you—?" Fearing that Will was going a bit mental after the encounter with the boggarts, Harry turned.

Oh.

Oh yeah. Magical Creatures Division.

"I guess it wasn't just the boggarts that got out," he breathed.

Down the hallway stood a pack of tall hounds, dim and silvery as ghosts, baring their razor-sharp teeth and thrashing their forked tails back and forth.

"Uh, know what they are, Will?"

His partner choked out a panicked laugh. "Bad doggies?"

The front two dogs crouched back on their haunches, muscles taut and ready to pounce.

"Yeah…yeah, bad dogs," Harry muttered dumbly. "Fire, maybe?" Will nodded and cast an Incendio Telum as Harry raised a fire wall.

The pack jumped through the flames and raced towards them.

Oh fuck shit.

Without thinking Harry pulled Will by the robes and threw them both back into the lift shaft.

He didn't even have time to scream before their fall ended abruptly with pain and two loud thunks.

And now we're on top of the lift that was coming to our floor. Brilliant.

Harry wrenched open the emergency exit panel in the lift's ceiling and watched as Will scrambled in. Before he could follow, two of the ghostly hounds leapt through the open grate and landed next to him on top of the lift.

"Get in here!" Will called, and Harry unceremoniously hurled himself through the hatch.

He wasn't fast enough. One of the hounds latched onto his ankle, falling with him into the lift.

Several voices raised in alarm, there was a very bright light, and the beast no longer seemed to be biting him.

The grinning face of Sirius Black suddenly appeared over him. "You got your arse kicked by a gytrash, Squibbulus? Hell, all you need is one pretty, pretty light and they disappear, as long as it's not fire. They love a good fire." Frank Longbottom and the pretty woman—Marlene something?—looked equally amused.

"Never—never heard of them," he grumbled back. Christ, my blood feels like it's on fire. "Those, uh, git-things aren't poisonous, are they?"

The woman's face turned concerned and she put a hand on his shoulder.

"Really very," Sirius shrugged. "Ah, don't worry Marlene, he's fine! Or fine-ish. Needs a few more bites for it to be dangerous."

Brilliant. Harry grabbed a tiny bezoar from his mokeskin bag and swallowed it. A few moments later the pain in his veins receded and he cast a quick healing charm on the bite.

"Bezoar? Nice," Longbottom murmured in approval.

As he got to his feet, he caught Will looking at him curiously.

Great. He's got to be wondering why my boggart is an Unspeakable. Just lovely.

But that was a worry for later. A bing sounded in the lift and the automated voice announced, "Level Ten: Courtrooms and Holding Facilities, Main Entrance."

They barely had time to snap up shields before a volley of spells sped through the grate and into the lift.

Well, we found the battle.

xoxoxox

Right – Cutting curse – Left – Reducto – Shit – Telum Ignis – Gotcha – Straight ahead – Fire Whip –

"You okay back there?" Harry called over his shoulder. When they'd entered the battle that was raging through the black-bricked hallways of Level Ten, he and Will had immediately fallen into the basic strikeman/shieldman roles that they'd assumed on missions for the Nines.

Every so often he spied another Order member or the occasional Auror fighting against the vastly larger number of prisoners. At one point it was Lily, at another James, but then in a blur they were gone again.

"I got your back still, mate," Will shouted back. "Keep moving forward!"

Thank God they're all in prison uniforms, or this would be impossible, Harry thought as he continued firing string after string of lethal and debilitating spells. Against these numbers, creativity and finesse seemed pointless.

We just have to keep hacking through them.

Left – Blood boiler – Left still! – Expul – Fuck!

They rolled out of the way as venomous green Killing Curses streaked towards them from both sides. Harry looked left in time to see Frank Longbottom shoot a seething yellow spell at one of his attackers. The man fell, gasping out his last breath.

"Thanks, Frank!"

More came. They came and just kept on coming. The enemy was little more than barely-glimpsed faces and flashing spells, but Harry slowly realised that it was their numbers, not their talent, that made the battle so dangerous.

While the red-robed bodies of some Aurors—as well as a few apparent civilians—were scattered about the halls, the clear majority of casualties came from the escaping prisoners.

A vague curl of dread started to unfold in him.

Right – Incendio Telum – Right again – There's something really weird about – Confringo – this battle…

As he and Will pushed their way down yet another corridor, Harry split his mind between the fight itself and trying to riddle out what why his instincts were protesting that there was something he needed to notice.

There's something missing…

Turning to aim another curse at middle-aged woman in prison garb, he caught sight of James taking down an opponent while Lily threw up a shield to protect his back.

"Dammit, Harry, pay attention!" Will yelled as he barely managed to avert an incoming spell with a Protego Maximus.

"Shit, sorry," he muttered. Fuck, kid, keep your head in the battle! Caffrey Burke's voice shouted at him. He forced himself to look away from his parents' counterparts. A moment later his Fire Whip neatly cleaved through the midsections of two more prisoners. They fell in silence.

The next thing he knew, they were being forced through a doorway into what Harry suddenly realised was Courtroom Ten. Oh, well, perfect.

They ran down the aisles toward the wall with the judges' benches, a band of prisoners on their heels.

One was a stringy, bleary-eyed man who gazed at Harry blankly even as he raised his wand.

Harry felt rooted to the spot.

No. It just can't be.

"Nappy? Nappy, what are you doing? Why—"

But a curse was already on the lips of another attacker, and he had to turn away from the barfly (my friend! his mind screamed) to spear them with a fire javelin. The falling man's wand shot off his final spell as his body arced back.

Harry couldn't tear his eyes from the seething red bolt that shot upwards and slammed into the massive chandelier overhead.

He was already wrenching Will out of the way when his partner snapped up a desperate shield to block the spells Nappy and the remaining prisoners were aiming at them.

Stars exploded in Harry's head as it struck the solid British oak of the judges' platform and was showered with broken glass.

Get up, get up!

He got up, ignoring the shaking of his legs.

The chandelier had crashed down in the center of the courtroom. The bodies of two of the remaining attackers peeked out from underneath, and Harry's quick cutting curse lashed through the throat of another in a hissing spray of blood.

Only one left, then.

Harry spun around.

Nappy was staring at him.

This can't be real. It can't be right.

"Dammit, Nappy, why?"

"Avada Kedavra."

He could only dive out the way again as Nappy's Killing Curse, a weak green streak that left him wondering if it were even fatal, sped through the courtroom and impacted the wood right behind where his chest had been.

"Confringo!" a voice called from the doorway. Nappy fell, his chest exploding outwards with a sickening crack of bone, revealing Sirius Black standing behind him. His godfather's counterpart gave Harry an uncharacteristically grim nod and then moved away from the entrance, presumably to continue with another opponent.

Nappy. Nappy. What the fuck? I don't underst…

No time. He tried to kill me. Get back to the fight. Deal with the rest later.

"C'mon, Will, job's not done yet," he choked out and looked over at his partner.

Will lay against the judge's platform, his head covered in blood and his torso perforated by long shards of broken chandelier glass.

"Will? Will!" Harry dove to his side and quickly started casting spells to safely remove the glass, spells to clot the blood, spells to try to mend the man's shredded body.

Will looked up at him and sputtered blood through his teeth.

"You lie still, I can heal this, I can just…just don't move," Harry muttered, his wand tracing his desperation as it flicked spell after spell.

Will brought his own hand, still holding his wand, to Harry's and tried to grasp it. "Harry…my girl, Marina…"

"You'll tell her just as soon as I get you patched up, mate." One particularly large wedge of glass was lodged in deep in the man's chest. Shite, that has to be hitting his lungs, maybe more. But if I remove it, he'll probably bleed out more quickly….What do I do? What the hell would Poppy do? "You still with me, Will?"

He glanced at the man's face.

Will stared back. His wand had fell from his hand.

No, fuck. No!

He felt himself cast another healing charm. It fizzled. Another. It fizzled.

The panting breaths of a single person were the only sound in Courtroom Ten.

Oh goddammit, I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Will.

Harry closed his partner's eyes with a trembling hand. He got to his feet in a daze, barely noticing when he pocketed Will's wand with the numb promise, I'll tell her. And I'll get your wand to her.

The sight of Nappy's corpse stung his eyes.

Why? Why?…He wouldn't even speak to me! Christ, why did he even bother fighting us in the first place? You'd think escaped prisoners would care more about actually escaping than fighting, even if they are Death Eaters!

The sprawled bodies of his enemies offered no illumination.

Wait.

Really, why would they fight like this? All it does is waste their time. Why wouldn't they focus on escaping?

Harry stared at the dead. Two old men. A middle-aged woman. A balding man in spectacles. A plump young woman.

Realisation slammed into him so hard he nearly saw stars again.

They're not Death Eaters at all.

Albus was right.

His mind buzzed with sudden comprehension. The battle was all wrong! Every other battleon The Delight, with the Nines, hell, even what I saw of Gringotts Plazain all of them both sides used shields. He recalled the last twenty minutes in a lightning-fast rush. None of the prisoners used shields. None of them even ducked. At all. Just offensive spells, and often not very good ones.

And…

He glanced at Nappy again.

And none of them spoke other than to say spells. No taunting, no spouting off about Mudbloods, no telling me to fuck my mother. Nothing.

His hand was on the Auror Pin and he was shouting with his mind before he realised it. "Moody! It's Aberforth. I don't think they're real Death Eaters! They're like…they're just patsies, I think! There's more going on than"

"I know," Mad-Eye snapped, "meeting at the lifts, get your arse here now!"

With a final long look at Will and Nappy, Harry ran.

xoxoxox

The battle on Level Ten seemed to be over.

Alice was sobbing when Harry approached the group of Order members gathering at the lift. Lily looked pale and had streaks of blood down an arm. Darkening bruises stood out against the uncharacteristic pallor of James' complexion.

Really, everybody looks banged up.

But they're alive.

A bloodied Sirius caught his look of concern at Alice's tear-stained face and muttered, "Frank's down. Still alive so far, but we had to use his Auror Pin to Portkey him out. Same with Marlene."

Shit.

"Will's…he's gone," he responded in a voice that didn't sound like his own. Get yourself together. "Have we lost anyone else?"

"Yeah." Sirius didn't elaborate. Harry's heart stuttered with concern for the Prewetts—where are they? Are they okay?

Worry later. They're smart and they're together.

Moody stumped up. "We've got a problem," he grunted without preamble. "Anyone's been in any kind of real fight knows this one was five kinds of fucked."

"No shields," a man Harry didn't know murmured.

"No talking," Lily added.

"No defenses at all, really," Sirius finished.

"Aye," the old Auror nodded. "And it didn't seem like they cared much for escaping once they were out of their cells. None of the ones in the Atrium even attempted to use the Floo or use the Visitors' exit." Mad-Eye's shoulder sagged, his face looking as old as Harry had ever seen it. "Aberforth here called 'em patsies. Anyone doubt he's right?"

Alice raised her eyes. "They were all wrong. Just…blank…"

Like…

Just like…

Oh fuck.

Like Krum in the maze.

"They were planted here, weren't they?" he whispered in dawning horror. "They weren't Death Eaters at all. Just…people. Regular people." He licked his lips, suddenly sure he was right. "People under the Imperius curse."

Oh God, I killed innocent people. They couldn't help what they were doing. Oh God oh fuck oh God…

The Order's harsh gasps echoing in the black hallway somehow helped stave off his panic.

Moody nodded slowly, his eye haunted. "S'what I'm thinking….I don't suppose it'd be too hard. Just Imperius them to get them arrested and let the curse drop once they were in custody. All claimed they were innocent, of course, but there were so many we didn't have time to even interview them yet." He spat on the ground. "And we know the Ministry was seeded with You-Know-Who's spies. All he'd need to do is to get his people on the inside to cast the Imperius on them again when the time was right, open their cells, and slip them wands. A small enough group of skilled Death Eaters with Ministry access could get it done. Especially if he had an Auror or two in his ranks."

Watching horrified comprehension settle on that many battle-worn faces made Harry want to run back to the Head and get blindingly drunk.

Lily retched in a corner as a dead-eyed James stroked her back.

A man whose name he didn't know sat down and stared at his wand.

Alice just blinked and looked around as though she couldn't understand where she was.

Harry felt his mind beginning to fray with the horror of it all and wrenched himself back to the moment. Stay alive now to lose your shit later.

Moody eyed the disintegrating group with a piercing glare. "All right, we need to keep ourselves together! Anyone here fight anyone we actually know is a real, marked Death Eater?"

The Order and what Harry suspected were a few unaffiliated random Aurors looked at him with wide eyes.

"Didn't think so."

"So why do any of this?" James bit out in frustration. "I mean, what's the point? To get us here and hurt as many innocent people as possible?"

Sirius clasped his friend's shoulder. "That's just it, I think. To get us here without sacrificing his own people….It's a distraction, isn't it, Mad-Eye?"

Harry's stomach sank as he found himself agreeing.

It was a weedy youngish man he thought might be named Ogden who asked what they were all thinking. "A distraction from what, though?"

Moody chewed his lip. "I'm guessing it's from something in the building. Yeah, communications with the outside are arsed by now, but if something even bigger were going on out there, someone would have sent me a patronus at least. No, I'm guessing it's going on here, and our missing real Death Eaters are wherever it's happening."

Lily sat up, wiping her mouth. "But the Order has been to almost every level! Except maybe the Magical Creatures Regulation—"

"Nope, been there. Creatures are loose but it seemed empty otherwise," Harry interjected.

"Alright," she continued. "All the ICW and executive Ministry offices are empty. Dumbledore confirmed that before he had to leave, right Alastor?"

Harry looked up sharply at that as Mad-Eye nodded.

Lily chewed her lip. "The Unspeakables completely locked down Level Nine and evacuated, and they didn't think they'd been breached. And the Atrium has a number of captured prisoners that the Prewetts and the others are guarding—"

Oh thank you God.

"—so where could something actually be happening?"

The small crowd lapsed into silence.

"Well," Alice said slowly, "I don't think anyone's been to the storage basement yet. Though I can't think what would interest You-Know-Who down there."

From the look Moody shot her, Harry was certain his night wasn't over yet.

xoxoxox

The long, freestanding spiral stairway down to what Moody called 'Level Eleven' almost made him yearn for the lifts, death-traps though they may be.

Hewn from earth and stone and only wide enough for them to move in single-file, the steep steps were worn slick from what must have been centuries of use. Without a bannister, Harry was keeping his wand out and an Arresto Momentum ready on his lips.

As a group, it seemed everyone was decidedly not thinking about the Imperiused dead who littered the floors above.

"We can hate ourselves as much as we want after we get out of here alive," Mad-Eye had said.

But there had been tangible relief when Mad-Eye had told the non-Order Aurors to use their Pins to Portkey any survivors to St. Mungo's.

He's probably just paranoid those Aurors are compromised, but at least some innocents may make it out of this.

"Well, this isn't creepy and disturbing at all, is it, Squibbulus?" Sirius quipped, though a tremor of anxiety laced through his words.

"No worse than the tunnel to the Shrieking Shack," he shot back weakly. "I actually miss the lifts."

"Well, from what I've heard you like a good shaft, yeah?"

Harry turned to see Sirius raising his eyebrows suggestively. "That's seriously the best bent joke you could come up with? I'm a little disappointed in you, you berk."

"My wit buckles under pressure and extreme emotional upset."

Ahead of them, James huffed. "I just don't get how you know about things like the Shrieking Shack, Aberforth. Bloody annoying, it is."

Lily and Alice giggled nervously.

"Belt up, you runts," came Moody's irritated whisper from the front of the group. "We aren't far off."

With great relief they reached the bottom. They stood in an open clearing of a massive, dimly-lit cavern filled from earthen floor to towering ceiling with long rows of shelves stuffed with boxes, crates, file cabinets, and row after row of bound parchment.

"What is this place?" Lily murmured in awe.

"Records, old evidence storage, basically everything the Ministry can't throw away but doesn't need around much," Alice whispered back. "Goes back centuries. They can't shrink any of it because the charms aren't eternal." She shook her head. "If we need an old file, we have to send someone down. Worst job in the Ministry, really."

"Right, enough chatter." Moody surveyed the eight people around him. "Place is too big for a revealing spell to show anything, so we do the legwork. Potter, Evans, you're still with me. Ogden, Nash, Dedalus, you three are a team now, head right. Aberforth, you go with Black and Longbottom to the left. My team takes the center. Anyone sees anything suspicious, you let the other team captains know."

Once again Harry found himself in the middle position as Sirius took point and Alice stationed herself as rear-guard.

Seeing her pale, still tear-stained face, he blurted, "I'm sure Frank will be okay, Alice."

Her smile was more a grimace, but her words were sincere. "Yeah. Yeah, thanks, Harry."

xoxoxox

OWL scores, 1915-1925. Hazardous Substances Importation Permits, 1832-1833. Floo Network Authority Internal Memos, 1780-1785. Wizards' Council Minutes, 1689.

They walked past countless rows housing the detritus of bureaucracy, all neatly collated, labelled, categorised, stacked, and eventually forgotten.

"The records go back to way before there even was a Ministry," Alice whispered. "They just moved all of it from the first Ministry building on the Bridge when this one was built. Hell, they go back to before even Merlin, if you believe what some folks say."

Harry could believe it.

They walked on.

Nervous tension radiated off Sirius ahead of him. The man was rolling his wand in his palm and breathing in annoyed little huffs.

"There's no one here," he finally burst out and turned to look at Harry and Alice.

"We have our orders," the young Auror replied firmly. "Keep to them. I don't know if—"

Bursts of light suddenly flashed far back from the direction they had come. But for Harry, who was still facing Sirius ahead of him, the light of a particularly bright blue spell illuminated a shape dozens of metres ahead of them, a human shape disappearing down one of the aisles.

"This way!" he hissed, and barreled ahead as Sirius gaped and Alice sputtered for him to stop.

Grabbing his Auror Pin, he screamed his thought. "Aliceat least one person up ahead, let's move!"

As he ran he barely caught the sound of their muffled footsteps behind him.

Which row was it, which row was it?

Here!

He skidded to a stop so quickly that Alice and Sirius ran into him, but thankfully stayed silent. "Down this next row, I'm sure of it," he thought to her as he grasped his Pin.

Alice nodded and cast Disillusionment spells on both herself and Harry. "Sirius," she hissed quietly. "Guard our backs."

As one Harry and Alice peered down the aisle.

Three cloaked and masked Death Eaters surrounded a fourth, petite figure who was opening a small casket on one of the shelves. A faint golden light began to glow as she raised the lid. Alice let out a nearly-silent gasp.

He moved to take a step into the row but she caught his arm and dragged him away.

"That's Millicent Bagnold!" she hissed in his mind. "The Minister for Magic!"

Well shite.

He grasped his pin. "Well she's either with them or she's been captured! Why aren't we going"

"Look at the floor! It's a classified sectionhighly restricted!"

A series of strange marks at the threshold to the aisle glowed a faint, fluorescent blue.

"That's a fatal rune line, Harry! We can't go down there without access."

He cursed under his breath and the two of them moved to look down the aisle again, carefully keeping their feet behind the shining marks.

The woman—Bagnold—lifted something out of the casket and handed it to one of the Death Eaters.

"Excellent," the man purred in a somewhat familiar voice as he handed whatever it was to one of his companions.

Harry stared at the trio of Death Eaters. The other man could have been anyone, but the third, the one who had taken the object, had long dark curls spilling out from under her mask.

That's the Lestrange woman. Sirius' cousin.

The group turned and began filing down the aisle toward them. Alice and Harry retreated a few steps back to Sirius, who jumped bodily when an invisible hand touched his shoulder.

"Three Death Eaters and the sodding Minister for Magic incoming!" Alice whispered as they dropped their Disillusionment charms.

Together they moved quickly to the entrance of another, unrestricted aisle some metres down and waited for the Death Eaters to pass, hearts pounding.

Yeah. Let them go by and we'll hit them from behind.

It was a good plan, but they hadn't considered that the Death Eaters had achieved their objective. The moment they exited the classified area, a muttered curse and a streak of green light bled through into their aisle. "What the—?" Alice gasped.

"Just leave the good Minister here, Travers," the leader said in a cultured voice. "Her part in this is over."

The woman laughed.

A feral expression darkened Sirius' face and he made to rush back into the main walkway.

"No!" Harry whispered harshly, holding the man back from running straight into their enemies. "Let them pass, dammit!"

Alice's voice broke into his mind. "I've told Moody, but he and the others have run into Death Eaters as well. We need to stop these ones and help them!"

Three sets of feet walked briskly by, and he, Alice, and Sirius burst from their perch. Alice's Confringo might not have killed the Death Eater bringing up the rear, but Harry's Diffindo, which seared through the man's torso leaving him in two pieces, certainly did.

The leader swore and set off at a run down the walkway towards the stairs as the Lestrange woman blocked the crackling spell that Sirius shot at her.

"Cousin! Fancy meeting you here," she giggled and cast the same lava-floor spell she'd used on Harry at the Dursleys.

Harry's water spout burst into life, but proved unnecessary.

With a swish of his wand Sirius hardened the molten floor into a gleaming, brittle obsidian. "Oh come on, Bella," he taunted. "You don't think Father taught me that one as well?"

But the woman wasn't looking at Sirius. Dark, cold eyes widened as they focused on Harry.

Sirius was already firing at the distracted woman again, and Harry took the opportunity to send another cutting curse at her throat.

She raised a shield as if swatting away a fly .

Bitch is fucking fast, Harry reminded himself.

"You!" she hissed at him, her eyes never leaving him. "I remember you…" A disturbingly cheerful grin stretched across her face. "But while I'd love to stay and chat, I've places to be." Her wand shot out a flaming orb.

They all raised shields to block, but the fireball flew over them and slammed with a teeth-shaking pulse into one of the shelves several metres back.

Within seconds it was consumed in a writhing, hissing fire which rapidly multiplied and began devouring other aisles. Lestrange took her opening and ran after the other Death Eater.

"Conflagration Bomb!" Alice shrieked. "Fuck! I can stop this, but it takes time! You two, follow her! Help the others. I've got to make sure it doesn't spread."

Sirius was gone and running headlong after his cousin before Harry could blink.

He stared at the spreading mass of flames that were beginning to surge through the aisles. "You sure?"

Alice was already casting spells. "We're trained for this shit, and you have your orders, Aberforth!"

"Aye-aye, Alice" he murmured.

xoxoxox

Harry bolted after Sirius, but his adrenaline had long since run its course. Fatigue washed over and through him, a deep weariness for all this shit.

Let's just get this fucking done, already.

His battles with the Nines were over in minutes. Fights with pirates could go on for longer, but in those there usually had been a sense of light-heartedness, even fun, since wizarding marauders rarely engaged in true life-or-death combat.

Stop whinging. Keep running. Finish the fight.

Moody's voice suddenly roared in his mind. "Anyone still alive on Eleven, we need back-up by the entrance now!"

Lily. James.

He forced more energy into his pumping legs.

Job's not done yet.

xoxoxox

The flash of spellfire ahead at least confirmed that people were still alive, still fighting.

Harry's breath caught in his throat.

Moody, James, Lily, Sirius, and the guy named Dedalus were barely holding on against more than double the number of Death Eaters.

Curses and hexes wheeled and whirled in a dizzying chaos of colour and sound, leaving the scents of ozone and vanilla, rancid meat and petrichor in their wake.

Well, get in there, lad! Ab's voice prompted.

Harry got in there.

Unlike the battle on Level Ten, his opponents were in their right minds, defended themselves, and fought back with brutal resolve.

Curse – Duck – Shield – Curse – Duck –

There was no time for thought, no time for strategy.

This isn't dueling. It's surviving.

Duck – Curse– Shield – Curse – Duck –

When a screaming Lily went down to a Cruciatus, Harry was too numb to do anything but re-aim his next curse at her attacker as James threw himself with renewed vigor into the battle.

Harry turned towards two hulking opponents whose spells were crude but powerful and caught sight of Sirius still dueling with his cousin. Good luck, Sirius. She's fast.

To his right Moody shot spell-chain after spell-chain at three others, even though one of his legs was half-blown off and bleeding profusely.

We're losing.

Shield – Duck – Shield – Curse – Curse –

The Death Eaters were slowly maneuvering so that they were between the Order and the staircase.

We can't keep this up.

Curse – Curse – Shit, hit – Shield – just grazed – Curse –

Alice ran up, her face black with soot, and joined the battle next to him.

It's not enough. They aren't taking us out completely, but we can't finish them.

A horrible, aching misery clawed its way into him, a consuming sadness that started to eat away at his reserves.

We're…we're all going to die down here.

The weight of his despair fell heavy upon him.

We should have run.

A chorus began to play in a torturous loop.

Take Harry and run! –

Please no, take me –

Get up, Ab. Please? –

I really can't do anything for Myrtle, can I? –

Stand aside, you silly girl! –

Please, get up, Ab! Please! –

Take Harry and run! –

I thought I could love a liar –

Get up, Ab. Please? –

Harry swayed, desperately trying to keep his mind on the battle.

Dementors. Dementors are here.

He cast his blurry eyes around and noted with fleeting satisfaction that the Death Eaters seemed just as affected as the Order members. Half of both groups were on their knees, cradling their heads, while the other half teetered and swayed.

But like the Battle at Gringotts, the Dementors remained unseen.

Get up, Ab. Please? –

If I could just cast a patronus…

I thought I could love a liar –

I could end this right now.

Through the haze in his mind he spied Moody trying to staunch his bleeding leg and cast a patronus at the same time. Silver vapor forced itself from his wand before dissipating into nothingness. The veteran Auror slumped into the growing pool of blood beneath him.

Happy thoughts…

But the misery was too thick, and behind it, beyond it, was a terrible, mounting pressure that made his lungs hurt and his eyes feel like they were bulging out of his skull.

This is beyond me.

It took all he had not to fall to his knees like so many of the others, his brain filling with leaden misery that drowned him in all the worst moments of his life.

He was so lost in the excruciating weight of it all that he didn't notice at first when a tall, rail-thin figure approached down the long central hallway, gliding faster than was humanly possible over the earthen floor.

Wait.

Ab? Please Ab? –

Take Harry and run! –

Wait…That's fucking Voldemort.

Pure shock kept the chorus of agony at bay long enough for him to stare at the Dark Lord. As he had been at Gringotts, Voldemort was swathed in a black robe so dark it felt like the absolute absence of colour. A hood covered most of his face, but Harry could see his eyes.

He blinked.

They aren't red.

Eyes a blue so pale they shone almost white cut through the dark even before the hood dropped back a bit. The man's mouth cracked into a lurid approximation of a smile.

What the hell is wrong with him? Terror bit into Harry far more acutely than misery. Jesus, fuck, what's wrong with his mouth?

It was as if a blind man had ripped off Voldemort's lips and tried to stitch them back on. Puffy and misshapen, they had blackened and purpled like necrotic skin, his smile more a gash that cut across his face.

Lucius' Malfoy's words from a few months back echoed in Harry's mind.

I fear we have thrown our lots in with a monster…

But his shock was wearing off and the desolation of the Dementors was waxing yet again.

The Dark Lord's smile grew wider.

Dear God, what has he done? What has he done?

"Ah, my faithful," he whispered in a high voice that felt like fingernails scratching across a blackboard. "My apologies. I know the effects can be…debilitating for weaker minds." The Dark Lord flicked his yew wand and the Death Eaters around him started shuffling back to their feet.

Fuck.

Wherever the Dementors are, he stopped their effects. But only for them.

Crushing despair and voices from the past bore down on him again even as he screamed for his mind to shake it the fuck off.

From behind him there suddenly came another voice, one he hadn't realized that he'd been longing to hear.

"You shouldn't have come here tonight, Tom."

Pure white light filled the foyer of Level Eleven. Harry's despair ebbed away as he glanced up to see a massive phoenix patronus hovering above them all.

"Ah, Albus! My Death Eaters found dear Millicent, but the night is incomplete without you."

Dumbledore brushed a step past Harry, his eyes on Tom alone. "I know what you are doing, Tom. I will not let it happen."

Voldemort laughed.

Harry's skin crawled at the unnatural sound. An Order member whimpered.

"Perhaps. Perhaps you are deluding yourself. In either case, you cannot maintain a patronus and fight me at the same time, can you Albus? Will you really sacrifice your people to try your wand against mine?"

When Dumbledore said nothing, Harry's stomach dropped. Shit. He's right and Albus knows it. He looked around. The Order and Dumbledore stood between Voldemort and his Death Eaters, several of whom had used the distraction to edge closer to the stairs.

Voldemort fingered his wand with exaggerated nonchalance.

It's a standoff. Dumbledore can't do this alone.

His mind raced under the aegis of the headmaster's patronus.

I have to help him.

And I do know something Voldemort doesn't know.

Oh hell…

. . .

God, I really am a bloody ridiculous fool.

Best kind of fool to be, I reckon, Ab's voice whispered back.

Harry sighed.

Time to poke a Dark Lord with a stick.

He squared his shoulders, stepped up next to Dumbledore, and faced the Dark Lord of this world for the first time.

"Christ, Riddle," he began with a shake of his head. "What the fuck have you done to yourself? Didn't you use to be pretty?"

The Death Eaters gasped and Dumbledore's eyes widened, but Harry kept his eyes on the man in front of him.

Voldemort stilled, shifting his pale eyes away from the headmaster. "What…what did you call me?"

Harry frowned. "Riddle. Y'know, Tom Marvolo Riddle? Your name?" He forced himself to laugh. "I mean your real name. What people called you before you decided it wasn't really the height of evil-Dark-Lordiness or whatever."

Behind him, Sirius let out a hysterical giggle. "Merlin, he has death wish," he muttered in terrified admiration.

"Lies!" the Dark Lord snarled.

Harry just shrugged. "Whatever you say, Tom."

Voldemort looked like he wanted to rip him apart with curses, but a moment later his expression settled into calm disdain. "So you think yourself their great defender? A schoolboy?"

"Actually, I think I'm technically a dropout."

Did I seriously just say that to fucking Voldemort?

The Dark Lord seemed to have the same thought and considered him for a long moment, his mouth chewing at his rotting lips in a way that made Harry's stomach churn. "And who might you be, then?"

Out of the corner of his eye he saw Dumbledore stiffen. A childish voice in his mind snapped petulantly, I told you I wasn't his kid, Albus!

"No one important."

"He's the one I told you of, Master!" the Lestrange woman's voice cut in. "The one at the house! His face is different but I'm sure—!"

"Really? How fascinating. If that's so, I owe you quite a bit of pain for the difficulties you've caused me, boy." Harry watched as Voldemort rolled his wand in his fingers again. He does that. I saw him do that in the graveyard before the duel as well.

Not long now.

Please let this work.

On impulse, he sneaked a hand to his Auror Pin. "Dumbledore? Can you hear me?"

"Harry? My God, what are you do"

"Sir, the second he casts at me, you need to back up, far as you can, and get the others out of the way."

"Harry, I"

"But," Voldemort sighed in mock regret. "I'm afraid I haven't the time."

"Trust me Albus! Just this once. Please!"

Harry watched as Voldemort raised his wand, his every muscle taut, waiting for the exact right time.

"…I trust you, Harry."

Voldemort smiled.

"Avada Kedavra!"

The moment the Dark Lord started to form the words, Harry leapt to action. "Expelliarmus!"

Of course, he could have used a different spell, a better spell, but he wasn't absolutely sure if that wouldn't have a different effect.

And it's not like I actually want to hit him.

As the two spells raced towards each other, he sensed more than saw Dumbledore release his patronus, whip his wand around, and send himself and the nearby Order members out of the way.

It was with a horribly discordant sound, like a great broken bell tolling its last, that the two spells collided mid-air and tethered Harry's wand to Voldemort's with a shrieking blast of silver light that glinted like razor blades.

Both men clung to their wands as a darker silver glow ignited in the center of the beam, much like the golden focus of power had once appeared in a graveyard on another world.

Riddle's face was contorted in a rictus of shock.

Harry didn't feel much better.

The golden dome he had expected was instead a whirling, cutting hurricane of sharp silver that screamed like a buzz-saw slicing through metal around them. It hacked into his mind, whining, buzzing, screeching.

This…Is this what insanity sounds like?

He suspected people were shouting or crying on the other side of the maddened storm, even though he could feel the effects of Dumbledore's renewed patronus glowing serenely around the edges of his soul.

"What is this magic?" Voldemort shouted into the din, for the first time looking anything other than confident.

I think this is what happens when brother wands from different universes are forced to battle, Harry thought fleetingly.

It's the sound of something that's not ever supposed to be.

As the dark silver orb edged towards him on the beam of magical energy, Harry dug into himself to push it back towards the Dark Lord.

He didn't intend to force it to impact the man's wand like it had last time, but he'd be damned if he'd let Voldemort think him weak.

Though my plan was based on it being like last time.

Maybe I really don't want to let that orb hit me…

With a mental shake of his head he dug down deeper. It's the best plan I have and I'm committed now.

Slowly, slowly, he lessened the strength of his desire to not let the silver orb get near him, and Riddle's eyes glinted as he pushed it closer to Harry.

When it was only six inches from the tip of his holly wand, Harry reached into his robes with his free left hand and met Voldemort's exultant gaze.

Because of you, he thought, decent people like Will and Nappy die.

His hand closed around Will's wand. It flared with a strange, prickle of heat that gradually grew stronger.

This didn't feel like acceptance, like the warmth of his holly wand always had.

This…

This felt like alliance.

Please help me.

Three inches.

I hate him. I hate what he does. I hate how he ruins every life he touches.

Two inches.

I hate that he makes me hate. I hate that because of him I lost my world.

One inch.

I hate that because of him I lost my parents. That I lost Ab.

Before the sizzling silver glow could reach the tip of his holly wand, he tore Will's wand from his robes and looked Voldemort full in the face.

Yes. I hate him.

Harry tasted the blood on his teeth. "Avada Kedavra!"

It was a good shot, a powerful electric green, and he knew in his soul that it would hit.

So he could still smile even as the silver glow reached him, as his beloved wand shuddered and dissolved into ash.

He could smile even as an agonizing pulse of horrible wrongness raced up his arm, because he saw his Killing Curse slam into the Dark Lord and send him flying back in a limp heap.

Meat hit stone.

The sound was like music.

He's dead. It's over.

Harry dropped to his knees.

I killed Voldemort.

Harry smiled while his body, his mind, his everything sagged.

It doesn't matter.

He's dead.

It's over.

If he'd had the energy, he would have cried.

It's okay.

It's really okay.

Thank you. Thank you.

. . .

And then Voldemort stood up.

. . .

The world snagged to a stop.

. . .

No.

The man swayed but managed to steady himself.

No, I hit him. I know I did.

Riddle laughed.

Horror coursed through Harry as he watched the Dark Lord, a perverted sort of adrenaline that left him limp-limbed and wide-eyed.

"Impressive, boy," Voldemort sniffed, adjusting his robes. "But you cannot presume to kill one such as I. I, who have gone further than anybody along the path that leads to immortality."

"No," he whispered dumbly.

Voldemort's gash of a mouth split into a Cheshire grin. "Yes."

The word was little more than a hiss, but it seemed to burn through Harry's flesh.

"And now you are gifted with the honour of helping me make history. I have been labouring to tame this magic for quite some time now, but you will be the first to taste it." He gave Harry a mocking little bow of his head. "You are welcome, boy."

He wanted to move, to stand, to do something, but his body was just too exhausted.

"What—what are you—?"

The Dark Lord brandished his wand, muttering an incantation Harry couldn't hear. A bone-deep wrongness seemed to bend and warp reality between them, and he knew he couldn't avoid this, couldn't duck away, couldn't—

what is – dear god what – ohgodohgodohgo –

xoxoxox

The title of this chapter is a play on Hunter S. Thompson's infamous novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, ©1972, though the action of this chapter obviously has nothing to do with that story.

On Level Eleven: There is no Level Eleven in the canon Ministry according to its directory. However, I've had to spend a fair bit of time professionally in official buildings of various governments, and it nearly always holds true that the storage basements and sub-basements aren't listed on directories. So I took a liberty.

Huge thanks to the wonderful volunteers who pre-read this chapter: Christina, CrowManifesto, Jadejabberwock, and Shadowstouch! I really appreciate your help. (If I mixed up your ao3 handle and your google handle, please let me know so I can fix it. I'm easily confused).

Both my beta AvergaeFish and I have been really busy, so this chapter has not been beta read. My apologies for any mistakes. We'll be going through and correcting things in the future, though no real content will change. However, if you're looking for a fun new take on a time-travel re-do fic, check out AverageFish's new story, More Than One Way to Skin a Cat (id: 13283547).