Harry turned over and blinked at the bleary numbers glaring at him from his bedside. 3:18 am. Brilliant. What he wouldn't give for a descent night's sleep. Since he'd been home, sleep had been a very infrequent visitor. Harry snorted into his pillow. "Home." Right. He'd never thought of the sterile environment of Number 4, Privet Drive as anything even approaching "home", but this summer he'd been forced to accept the fact that, as long as he was a minor, he'd not be able to give that tittle to anywhere more deserving or agreeable.

Glaring into the darkness, Harry emitted a low growl through gritted teeth. This was the reason for his lack of sleep. Try as he might, he simply could not banish the offending thoughts from his mind: he was NEVER getting away from the Dursley's. Harry had been sure...absolutely SURE, that once Voldemort was destroyed there would be no reason for him to stay. Dumbledore had as much as promised him, hadn't he? All of those explanations about the protections of blood magic, and why he had to stay with his pathetic excuse for a family...surely there was no need now that Voldemort was no longer a threat?

This had been the glorious, wonderful thought that had allowed him to summon his astonishingly powerful patronus in the final battle, clearing a path for he and the others to get to Voldemort.

The attack had been entirely unexpected. Nobody had given any thought to the possibility that Voldemort would be able to mobilize so quickly; mere weeks after Harry had completed the third task, as the slightly battered champion and the rest of the students noisily boarded the Hogwarts' Express, the unthinkable had happened. Dozens of loud pops, drowned out easily by the busy chatter of hundreds of excited children, had heralded the arrival of a formidable army of Death Eaters.

It had taken a few moments for it to register with the students what was happening; most, after all, had no idea what a Death Eater looked like. The realization, however, wasn't long in coming for Harry. One moment he'd been listening half-heartedly to Hermione recount something or other about one of her exams, and the next he was lying on the platform, screaming and clutching at his forehead, where his scar threatened to burn a hole in his scull. After seeing his reaction, it was made abruptly clear to the others exactly what the situation was. Screams filled the air, and panicking children scattered, some scrambling to board the train, others abandoning trunks and posessions to flee in the direction of Hogwarts. The Death Eaters Made short work of stopping them, using all manner of curses, completely uncaring that their victims were as young as eleven years old.

Harry, for his part, dove behind a substantial pile of luggage, dragging Ron and Hermione with him.

"Oh God, Harry! He's...He's not here, is He?" Hermione stared at him with wide, pleading eyes. Ron stayed silent, but looked at Harry with the same panicked, disbelieving look on his face.

Before he could either confirm or deny their fears, a high, unnatural voice rang out in the air, effectively silencing the entire platform, freezing every single person in terror.

"HARRY POTTER!" the voice rang out, that eerily high voice turning the words to ice, hanging in the air.

"Potter," he called again, "Potter, I know you're there! Why don't you come and play, little one?"

At this the robed Death Eaters snickered, but kept their wands trained on the quivering and sobbing children.

Behind the wall of trunks, Harry looked around desperately for aid. From his vantage point his field of vision was limited, and what little he could see was disheartening. The three faculty members that had accompanied the students, Professors Sprout, Vector and McGonnogal, lay unmoving, guarded by Death Eaters. Harry couldn't tell whether or not they were breathing, but he could tell that he would find no help there. The students he could see looked no more promising; even the older students looked about to pass out from fright, and one little second year looked to have wet himself.

"Dumbledore, please help," Harry whispered frantically to himself, "Please, Dumbledore, Sirius, anybody, PLEASE!"

"Harry?" Whispered Ron, a shocked look on his face, "Harry, you...you're going to do something, right?" Ron's eyes locked onto Harry's. Realization swept through Harry's mind. They expected HIM to take care of this. Harry looked open-mouthed at Ron, then over to Hermione.

"Harry? Please, Harry..." was all she could say.

It was all too much. His friends, who had been with him during some of his darkest times, who knew just how hard on him it had all been, now expected him to step in and single-handedly destroy not only the most powerful dark wizard of all time, but dozens of his minions as well? He heard a muffled whimper, and looked behind him. Huddling beneath the train was a group of students, and every one of them had their eyes fixed on one person and one person only-him.

Harry's shock was soon replaced with anger, and then resignation. Fine, he thought, if this is the way it has to be, so be it.

With grim determination he set his jaw and turned back to his friends.

"Ron, I need you to stay here with me. Hermione, I need you to help get word to Dumbledore and the Ministry aurors. If they haven't shown up yet, Voldemort must have done something to keep from being detected. Dumbledore at least should've been able to feel him. We NEED to get help Hermoine, do you understand?"

Here Harry shook Hermione slightly, forcing her to gather her wits and calm a bit. At her hesitant nod, he continued,

"Okay...I need you to get inside the train-you're going to have to crawl underneath and board from the other side-and try to organize the students. Get anybody, EVERYBODY, who has an owl to write messages to either Dumbledore or the Ministry, and any other adult wizard you know we can trust. Sirius, Remus, Ron's dad, anybody. Get them all ready, and release them all at the same time. Hopefully the D.E.'s won't be able to hit them all and a message will get through. It might also be just the distraction we need. Now go!"

Hermione, though still looking rather faint, gathered herself together and turned towards the train, stopping to grab Harry, then Ron into a quick, ferocious hug.

"I'll see you both soon," she whispered fiercely. With a suddenly determined look, she disappeared underneath the train.

Harry only had time for a pained look at Ron before he heard a loud blast, accompanied by a flash of scarlet light. Renewed screams were silenced when Voldemort's voice again screeched through the silence.

"I do not appreciate being ignored, you impertinent child! Show yourself, or the next thing I point my wand at will be made of flesh, not stone."

Harry twitched, half-rising from his crouched position, before Ron pulled him down roughly, hissing,

"Are you crazy? You CAN'T go out there yourself! He'd have you dead before you'd drawn your wand!"

"Well then I'll just have to make sure I draw it BEFORE I go out there, won't I?" Harry said with a glare.

"This is NOT the time for jokes or your Merlin-be-damned heroics, Harry! Wait until help arrives!"

Harry jerked his arm out of Ron's grasp and half-snarled,

"You were more than ready to let me handle this solo a few minutes ago, weren't you? You and Hermione both, with your 'Harry, oh, Harry, do something, please, Harry...' You all want me to solve your bloody problems, so I'm going to. It's all well and good for you two to stick by me when there's no REAL chance you're going to get hurt, but faced with the big bad, that's out the window, isn't it?"

By the stricken look on his best friend's face, Harry knew he'd gone too far. Ron's face quickly changed to a deep, angry red and he hissed,

"Gee, I'm sorry, MATE, but not ALL of us have the ability to keep our wits about us in the company of You-Know-Fucking-Who, now do we? We haven't ALL had the pleasure of his company as often as you, remember? So EXCUSE me for being a little shaken when an evil madman and his pack of psychotic attack dogs suddenly apparates onto the train platform, but you going out there isn't going to accomplish ANYTHING. And as for us never sticking with you through any REAL danger, I think you need to think long and really FUCKING hard about all we've been through these last few years before you commit to that statement."

Harry grasped his seething friend by the shoulder and leaned forward until their foreheads pressed together. He clapped the back of Ron's neck and squeezed firmly. Ron did the same to him, shifting his grip to his shoulders. Harry closed his eyes and drew a shaking breath, attempting to draw strength from his friend, knowing Ron was doing the same.

"You're right," he whispered, in the same suddenly fierce, determined tone that Hermione had used earlier. "You HAVE been there, through everything that you could be there for. I'd be lost without you, Ron, Hermione too. But I have to do this."

As Ron started to protest, Harry shook his head and continued, "If I don't go out there, Voldemort's going to start offing kids left and right. How many will be lost in the time it takes help to get here? That is if they don't just find me before then and drag me out. Either way, people are going to die because I'm too afraid to face him."

Harry frowned. His comments had brought up a good point: why hadn't Voldemort simply ordered his Death Eaters to search the platform for him? Harry suspected it was for the very reason he had just explained to Ron. Voldemort would expect him to feel responsible for the children on the platform and come out on his own. And if he had to kill a few mud-bloods to get his point across, that was simply an added bonus. An appetizer before the main course came crawling to him, begging for his life. Bastard.

Ron, however, was not convinced by Harry's arguments. "Harry, that is ridiculous! Do you think for a second that once he has you he's not going to let the Death Eaters "celebrate" a bit? Any Muggle-Born out there is as good as dead the second you're beaten! And as much as I respect your abilities, mate, I don't like the odds of you against the army out there."

Harry sat back on his heels and buried his head in his hands. When he spoke, his voice came out choked and muffled,

"I know, Ron, but I don't understand. You don't know what they can do! You felt...you haven't HEARD..."

Right on cue, an anguished scream ripped through the air. Ron had to forcibly restrain Harry as he lunged towards the sound. The wail finally quieted to audible sobs and whimpers, and then Voldemort spoke,

"I'm getting bored, Potter, and I am quickly losing my sense of humour. I may very soon become cranky. On the other hand, I have so MANY toys to play with...this one seems to be broken. The little ones never last long." The Death Eaters snickered again, clearly pleased by their master's wit.

"Ah, yes," he continued, "and I cannot forget my loyal servants. They have been denied the pleasures of the...flesh...for so long now. If you keep us waiting for too long, I will have to give them leave to play for a while. Honestly, Potter, I would have thought..."

"Harry!" called a voice from somewhere to his right, "Harry, stay where you are, for Merlin's sake, don't..."

"SILENCIO!!" roared Voldemort.

Harry, who had been gripping his face in his hands, attempting to block out the taunts of the madman, snapped his head up at the sound of the pleading voice. Professor McGonogall! If she was alive, perhaps the other professors were as well! Before he could think beyond that, Voldemort again spoke.

"Ah, did you recognize the voice of your dear teacher, Potter? She seems to have awoken from her little nap. Yes, I do know who she is...I've been very well informed of everything concerning you, boy. Your head of house, I believe? And very close to Dumbledore, I believe. Speaking of the senile old coot, I wonder where he could be? I believe this is the point where he usually comes riding in, just in time to save your worthless little hide. But where could he be? Maybe if I call him..."

At this, Voldemort proceeded to call and whistle, as if calling a dog, eliciting still more sniggers from the dark robed men. After a few minutes during which Harry fought to keep tears of despair from squeezing from his eyes, the mocking voice stopped.

"Huh. It would appear that no help is coming this time. No Dumbledore, no overgrown parrot, and thanks to certain precautions I've taken recently, no dead parents. That's right, Potter. This time it's just between you and me. Oh, yes, a score or two of my loyal followers. So it's your choice, boy. You can come now, and settle this with me, or I can tear the limbs off of a few mudblood whelps and THEN we can settle this."

Ron was now pinning Harry to the ground, clamping his mouth shut to keep him from calling out, from giving Voldemort what he wanted.

Voldemort waited a few moments, the sound of his foot tapping the paving stones, before he heaved an exaggerated sigh, and said,

"Alright. Fine. We'll do this the hard way, since you insist...I HOPE YOU"RE ALL PAYING ATTENTION," he yelled suddenly, "BECAUSE THIS ON THIS DAY YOUR GOLDEN HERO OF THE LIGHT DID NOTHING TO HELP YOU! I've changed my mind, Potter, I'll save the children for later. I'd rather start small and work up...perhaps I'll start with a little TABBY...CRUCIO!"

Evidently the "silencio" had worn off, because the screams that were ripped from the throat of the usually composed woman drilled into Harry's ears, and even Ron's considerable strength could no longer hold him down. Shoving his friend off and scrambling to his feet in one motion, Harry ran from behind the luggage, wand drawn, a curse already forming on his lips, and was immediately hit with a shouted, "EXPELLIARMUS!" from a masked Death Eater. Wandless, he had no defense against numerous curses that shot at him from ever direction. Among those that hit their mark was the Full Body Bind that caused him to fall, stiff as a board, onto the platform. Despite the intense pain he was in, Harry felt a rush of relief wash over him when he heard the curse on McGonnogal lifted. His relief was short lived, however, as he felt himself be lifted in the air and turned to face Voldemort.

"Well, hello there young man," Voldemort said in a mocking jovial tone, "I see you've decided to join us. I said at our last meeting that you had no manners...perhaps you've learned a bit since then? No, I suppose not. Though it's not entirely your fault, of course...I can't expect one raised amongst animals to act as anything but, can I? Your father, though a Muggle-loving fool, was at least a Pureblood. He would be disgusted to see you now...cowering behind boxes like filth, too afraid to face your enemy like a man. You'd even disgust your filthy Mudblood mother, with whatever tiny inkling of the concept of honour her primitive, animalistic mind could grasp."

Voldemort watched Harry struggle against the Body Bind, his face livid, and with a flick of his wrist freed his head, allowing him to talk.

"Honour," Harry spat, "you speak of honour? You, with forty full-grown, fully trained wizards waiting to do your bidding? If it were just you and me, TOM, I'd beat you just like every other time before! The truth is, TOM, YOU'RE the one that's disgusting. I don't see you facing your enemies as a man! If you were, you'd be at the gates of Hogwarts, alone, calling for Dumbledore to come and turn your disgusting hide into mincemeat, and send you to hell to visit your whore of a mother and your MUGGLE father!"

Apparently, he'd hit a nerve. The curse that tore through his body was strong enough to break through the Body Bind, and he dropped to the ground, screaming with convulsions so strong his joints threatened to rip apart. The Death Eaters shifted gleefully towards their Lord and his victim, their attention so firmly held that they failed to notice the red haired boy creeping silently along the train tracks, away from the gathered Death Eaters, towards the three professors lying prone on the platform.

It had taken all of Ron's limited willpower and strength to keep himself from following Harry into the fray, but once he had heard Harry get hit, he knew anything he could do would be useless. As the Dark Lord renewed his taunts, Ron tore at his hair, mentally yelling at himself to think of something, anything to do. He chanced a glance through the trunks, and noticed that, as Harry threw back his own insults, the Death Eaters were starting to turn their attention towards the conflict between the irate young boy and the Dark Lord, who was slowly starting to boil with rage. Ron had only enough time for a whispered, "All right Harry!" before he heard the angry, "CRUCIO" , followed by his friend's screams. Fighting his fairly suicidal urge to throw himself bodily at the Dark Lord, Ron quickly scanned the area he could see. The Death Eaters were now actually moving away from their posts, abandoning their charges in order to get a better view of the torture. Seeing his chance, Ron drew a breath and did an incredibly risky, but incredibly brave thing. Keeping low to the ground, he shimmied backwards and to the right until he dropped into the groove that the platform that held the track. It was not very deep, but if he stayed on his knees and elbows he was hidden to anyone who wasn't watching for him, and the Death Eaters, in their sick enthrallment, were watching anything but the train tracks.

Shaking with a mixture of fear and adrenaline, Ron crept along the tracks for several meters before he chanced a glance over the rim of the groove. Yes! He was sufficiently behind the Death Eaters that he would not be seen unless one looked directly behind him. Ron slipped onto the platform and, staying low, crept soundlessly towards his professors. Pausing for a moment to consider, Ron pulled his wand out of his robes and, pointing it at Professor McGonnogal, whispered, "Mobilicorpus", moving her father away from her guards, who had already drifted more than two meters away from their charges. Ron repeated the process with Sprout and Vector, then placed his hand firmly on McGonnogal's mouth and muttered, "Ennervate."

McGonnogal's eyes flew open and she started to fight, but Ron threw his weight on top of her and hissed at her to stay silent. Slowly, she nodded, and Ron removed his hand.

"Professor. You need to go get help! Apparate to the Ministry and get the aurors. Sprout or Vector can get Dumbledore."

The professor widened her eyes, then shook her head violently.

"I can't leave you students here unprotected!"

"Professor," Ron whispered, cutting her off, "you three can't beat forty Death Eaters and You-Know...that almighty ASShole. Our only chance is to get help. We're trying to get owls off, but Hermione hasn't managed it yet and none of us can apparate. Please, you need to do this! He's already tortured another student besides Harry. Please, Professor!"

The stern professor looked suddenly very weak, reminding Ron that she had very recently been subjected to a very strong Cruciatus curse.

"Professor, Merlin, I should've thought...are you alright? Are you strong enough to apparate?" Ron's confidence was shaken by the sudden lack of strength in his usually stalwart professor.

Seeing the change in Ron's face and not liking what she knew it meant, McGonnogal gave her student a stern look and said, in what she hoped was a firm, business-like tone,

"Of course I can apparate! Don't be ridiculous! However, I disagree with your plan. I will apparate to the ministry and floo Albus from there. That way the other two can stay to help you, if they are in any condition to fight when they awaken." She finished with her usual, "don't even think about disagreeing with me, because I have made up my mind, put my foot down AND laid down the law, thank you very much" glare, at which Ron couldn't help but give a small, twisted smile.

"Okay professor. Whatever you say. But hurry back, okay? I'm afraid for Harry."

The screams had stopped and Voldemort was now doing something that, though Ron couldn't see it, he was sure was not pleasant as the Death Eaters seemed even more excited.

McGonnogal took one sickly, worried look in the direction that Harry lay, then turned to Ron. She grabbed his hand and squeezed it quickly and fiercely. Then, with a murmured promise to return, she winked out of existence and Ron was again left alone. Checking to see that the black-clad figures were still occupied, Ron turned his attention to the two professors before him.

Hermione sucked in a sharp breath when she heard another scream rip through the air. The first had rung out shortly after she had left Harry and Ron, before she had managed to enter the train. That scream had almost finished her, but she managed to pull herself together enough to creep up to a door and gain entrance to a compartment. To her surprise and, strangely, her relief, she had to dodge a hex that flew at her face the moment she opened the door. "At least some of them have their wits about them", she thought.

"Hey! I'm a student! I'm Hermione Granger, please let me in," she called through the door in a low voice.

"Hermoine?" called out a familiar voice. Seconds later the door was wrenched open and the flushed faces of Fred and George Weasley popped into view. "Bloody Hell Hermione! Thank god!" They pulled her into the train and into twin hugs.

"Are you okay? Were you with Ron? We can't find him or Ginny! Did you see either of them? Oh, Merlin, I can't think..."

Hermione pulled, albeit a little reluctantly, away from the strong embrace of the twins.

"I'm fine, really. And I just left Ron, he's with Harry. I didn't see Ginny, but I'm sure she's fine."

"We heard a scream but we didn't see..." George finished, letting the unspoken question hang in the air.

Hermione sent him a tearful look and shook her head.

"Sorry, but I couldn't see anything from where I was. There are a lot of students still out there though, and no sign of help yet. Harry wants us to send for some."

"He has a plan then?"

Hermione turned towards the voice and for the first time realized they weren't alone in the compartment. Scanning the faces for ones she knew, She was relieved and saddened at the same time. She picked out, among others, Dean Thomas, Pavarti Patil, Justin Finch-Fletchy, Dennis Creevy and various others she recognized as being from other houses and years. That she saw Dennis without Colin worried her. Dennis caught her gaze when it lingered a moment on his face, and he sent her a hopeful look. She shook her head, and his shoulders slumped visibly.

"Hermione?" asked Dean, who had spoken before, "What's the plan?"

"Oh, yes...he wants everyone to write S.O.S. notes to the Ministry and Dumbledore by owl," she stated simply.

She was answered with silence. Everyone in the compartment send her identical blank, disbelieving looks.

"OWLS?" exclaimed Justin Finch-Fletchy, "his great plan is for us to send letters with OWLS!?? How the bloody hell is that supposed to help us?"

Hermione bristled at his derisive tone, and sent him a death glare.

"Yes, JUSTIN. That IS the plan. That is the plan because unless anyone on this train knows how to illegally apparate," here she looked at the Weasley twins, who shook their heads in unison, "we have no way of calling for help. Voldemort must have blocked Dumbledore from sensing him somehow, otherwise he'd be here by now. Our only hope is that one of the owls gets through with a message."

"Okay, I see that," said Fred, "but the D.E.'s are just going to shoot them out of the sky one by one like skeet. I mean, I guess we can try, but I don't really hold a lot of faith in the plan. Merlin bless Harry, but I just don't think it's going to work."

Hermione rounded on him, her brown eyes flashing.

"Well, I suppose we COULD just sit here like nice little boys and girls and patiently wait our turns to get tortured and murdered, if you'd rather...No? I thought not. So If we're ready to at least TRY..."

Her words were cut off as a blood-curdling scream tore through the air. This one sounded like it belonged to someone older, but the train walls muffed it enough that it was impossible to tell beyond that. Hermione shivered. Raising her voice so it could be heard above the screams, trying desperately to keep her voice from breaking, she continued giving instructions.

"Okay. Everyone with an owl needs to write letters saying, 'Death Eaters at Hogsmeade station with Voldemort. Students are alone. For the love of Merlin this is NOT A JOKE! Please help, they are using CRUCIO.' Here...get me a quill. I'll write it and we can just copy charm it. We need them to believe we're not pranking. Make sure the letters to the ministry are sent to the Auror's Department, NOT to Fudge. He won't believe it if he gets a hundred owls all saying the same thing, the daft bastard. About half the letters should go to Dumbledore, and some to Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, Arthur Weasley...Fred, George, you take care of that. He'll believe you for sure, and he'll make sure help gets sent. I know the rest of you are going to want to send owls to your parents as well but it's really important that we get the messages to people with experience fighting dark wizards." She finished, short for breath, and looked around as if looking for a challenge. She met none.

As the others nodded and moved with their now copied notes to spread the news and execute the plan, she had another thought,

"Oh, yes. In order to assure that as many of the owls get through as possible, we have to let them all go at the same time. That way, they'll also serve as a distraction that might help the people outside. Fasten those notes to as many owls as you can and let them loose in exactly...five minutes. Now go!"

The screams had stopped, but Hermione wasn't fool enough to think that whatever was going on outside had stopped. She rushed out of the compartment door with the others and ran off in search of owls.

It was less than a minute later when Hermione heard the scream. If the others had chilled her, this one froze her solid. She knew that scream. That awful sound was being ripped from the soul of one of her two best friends in the entire world. "Harry, oh, God!" She thought, panicking. He had Harry! And if he'd found Harry, he'd probably found Ron as well. She grabbed the window frame to support herself as a wave of nausea hit her. Voldemort wouldn't even pause to blast Ron into oblivion on his way to get to Harry. Oh, God! Struggling against her grief and terror, Hermione forced herself to continue with her self-appointed task. A renewed look of determination on her face, she returned to wresting an owl cage away from a distraught first year, and in her frustration blasted the child with an itching hex to get her to relinquish her hold.

Finally, the allotted time had passed and Hermione herself had manages to attach notes to eleven owls, and was ready to let them loose. She could only hope that the others had fared as well...hopefully some had fared better. As she prepared her final owl, she noticed that the screaming had stopped. It had gone on for so long that she had become accustomed to it. Shivering at the thought, she pointed her wand at the throat and whispered, "Sonorus," before flinging her window open and yelling,


It took Harry a few moments to realize that the curse was no longer upon him. The pain still rolled through him in violent waves that sent his body into shuddering convulsions. He had been held under the Cruciatus curse, cast by a VERY angry Dark Lord, for almost five minutes. He lay on the platform, curled in a fetal position, gasping for breath. His face was pressed into the flagstone, breathing in the dust that lay between the cracks.

He heard approaching footsteps, and his fingers clutched weakly at the cold stones, desperate for something to hold onto, something to give him at least an illusion of strength. The footsteps stopped, and he heard the rustle of robes that announced someone crouching down beside him. Something cool and hard was laid lightly against his throat, and Harry flinched away from the unwelcome sensation. A soft chuckle came close to his face. Cold, sour breath puffed into the air above his face.

"Do you know what this is, Potter, that I'm resting against your neck? Well, you probably wouldn't. Dear old Dumbledore does like his student stupid, after all. This, my boy, is a Ghol Knife. Fascinating things, these. Can you guess what it does?" he paused, as if waiting for an answer. When nothing was heard from Harry but more laboured breathing, Voldemort turned to his followers and said,

"Oh, dear. It seems the poor child is all tired out. Well, he won't be tired for long." He said with a smile, eliciting more laughter from the Death Eaters.

"You see, Potter, Ghol Knives are very special, and very rare. They are made by Dementors, or at least what Dementors WERE before they became Dementors. The History is very long and frankly I doubt you'd be very interested, but I'll give you an abridged version of it. Centuries ago the beings that we know as Dementors were a race very much akin to Vampires, but unlike their blood-sucking cousins, the Agholyths did not drink blood. As even your slow little mind might have guessed, they existed by siphoning the souls from their victims. They did not drain the soul completely as they do now when administering the Kiss, but only enough for a meal. Perhaps six-seven hundred years ago they were approached by the head of a clan of dark wizards who wished to harness their power, thinking correctly that it would be a powerful weapon. The Agholyths agreed, and in exchange for a sacrifice of humans on which to feed every year, they created five knives: the Ghol.

Now. Everything went a planned for many years. The wizards used their new weapons to dominate their part of the world, striking fear into the hearts of wizard and Muggle alike, and they remembered their duty, delivering the sacrifice every year. This went on for the entire time that the original wizard was head of the clan. When his son succeeded him, however, he felt that it was no longer necessary to pay the sacrifice, and he refused. The creatures approached them, thinking that perhaps there had been a mistake. The new chief informed them that there had been no mistake. He refused to pay, saying that the debt had been settled. When they pressed the issue, the Agholyths were threatened with the Ghol knives. They were enraged. That night, as the wizards slept after a night of reveling, the Agholyths attacked. They completely overwhelmed their opponents, and in their rage did what they had never done before; they drained their victims of their souls completely, leaving them empty shells. Only after they had dispatched of the entire clan did they realize their mistake. Because of their countless evil deeds, the wizards' souls were tainted, so badly in fact that as they nourished the Agholyths' bodies they slowly poisoned them. In the end they became what they are now: Dementors. Soul-less, lifeless beings that seek happiness to heal them of the damage they inflicted upon themselves, eating them away from the inside out.

Voldemort paused, a little over-dramatically in Harry's opinion, examining the blade and twirling it slowly between his fingers. Harry was able to catch only a glimpse of it, but he didn't like what he saw; a thin, ten centimeter blade, made of some dark gray metal, etched with curious designs. Harry was jerked away from his observations when Voldemort again launched into a lecturing tone.

"The five knives were not seen for centuries, and they are still not all found. But I have one, as you can see. Now, Potter, do you know what this wonderful little toy does? I told you before that it contains the powers of the Dementors...three guesses as to what I meant by that, boy. Yes, this blade, with a single prick, can draw the soul out of the victim, performing exactly the same function as the Dementor's Kiss. So I should move very carefully from now on if I were you, boy. One prick from this blade and your soul will be no more."

Harry, still hurting but slightly recovered, had used Voldemort's speech to have a proper look at his surroundings. Death Eaters were everywhere, seeming to close in. Around them, clusters of terrified students crouched on the ground, most either looking at Harry in panic or hiding their faces in their arms. And there, about a meter and a half away, lay his wand. Nobody had picked it up! When Harry noticed that Voldemort was no longer talking, he looked at him and said,

"For someone with such a girly voice, you sure do like to hear yourself talk, don't you?"

Enraged at the lack of fear Harry showed, Voldemort pulled back the knife with a shriek of rage, preparing to strike. The sudden movement compromised his balance, and Harry used this to his advantage. In one movement he pushed away from Voldemort, knocking him back, and rolled away, calling, "ACCACIO WAND!"

At that moment, all hell broke loose. A flurry of activity attracted everybody's attention as scores of owls burst from the train. Confused and startled, the Death Eaters did nothing, until Voldemort shrieked,

"Shoot them down, you fools!"

Those few moment of hesitation were all that were needed, however, to allow a few of the birds to get out of range and for Harry to get his wand. He had no time to think what to do next before he heard a loud "pop" beside him and he found himself face to face with the man he most wanted to see most in the world.

"Hiya Harry!"

"S-Sirius?" he stammered in shock.

Sirius only had time for a quick, "Watch your back, son!" and a grin before he shoved Harry out of the way and shot a curse at a Death Eater. Harry immediately followed his godfather's example, blasting and dodging hexes in earnest. The train platform had turned into a battle ground, as more and wore wizards popped into view. Harry couldn't fathom how the messages had managed to reach help so quickly, and frankly he didn't care. They were going to finish this once and for all, and when it was all over, Harry really would be Sirius' son. Nobody, not even Voldemort, was going to ruin that.