Disclaimer – After over 300,000 words is this really necessary? Harry Potter isn't mine. This is a work of Fanfiction done for entertainment purposes. I don't own the characters.
Acknowledgements – Wow! Where to start at? Kokopelli and earlier FairyQilan for their editing and efforts to educate me on what proper grammar and mechanics look like. Apparently, it is an ongoing journey and not a destination. IP82, ChuckDaTruck, Nukular Winter, Sirius009, Zanymuggle, and all the other members of the oft-mentioned Alpha Fight Club – thank you guys for staying with the story and helping me craft the plot. The other authors at FFA (Crys, Aaran St. Vines, Virridian and Musings of Apathy) deserve a warm thanks for their comments along the way. The folks at Darklordpotter also get the nod for their special brand of brutal honesty that keeps me from getting too full of myself.
Finally, you the readers have my gratitude for sticking with this story for just shy of two years.
Okay, now that that is out of the way lets see some death…
Chapter 41 – Before the Dawn
December 23rd, 1996
It took all of two seconds for Voldemort to realize they had lost the element of surprise, if, in truth, they'd ever had it. The walls of the tunnel shook as something detonated from above. He cast a levitation charm, hurling all his might into the spell, arresting the falling debris. At the tunnel entrance behind them, a reddish mist appeared.
"Poison gas!" One of his minions cried out, clutching his throat as he dropped to the ground.
"Forward, into the mansion," he screamed. The path of retreat was cut off. There was no going back, even if this was a trap. Rookwood cast a bubblehead charm on Voldemort while the Archmage kept the tunnel from collapsing.
He still had the Trolls in front to absorb the brunt of the ambush. Whether they'd been betrayed, or whether this was more dumb luck for the Potter brat, it did not matter; he was the most powerful wizard in the world! He hurried his troops into the hall and released the spell holding the tons of earth from crushing them.
Quickly he assessed the situation. Two of the Trolls lay dying as fire whips sliced the air like streamers released at a celebration. The Banshee had been crushed, much like the bauble she had just destroyed. Only one arm stretched out from under the heavy stone table. He didn't have the luxury of appreciating the irony as he banished the table towards the mansion's defenders.
The Trolls continued to soak up damage as he began venting his wrath on the Troll's attackers. The creatures were slowed by some kind of paste applied to a section of the hallway. It did not halt their advance, but it slowed them significantly. Their faces contorted in silent pain as they struggled against the relentless floor.
The sticking was cute, but it was an error on Potter's part. A jet of fire ignited the goo. Nothing gets a Troll moving like fire and the wall of flame gave him time to organize the rest of his fighters.
Spells darted through the air. The hallway was barren, emptied of articles that could be transfigured or used as shields. Charmed chairs and benches formed a moving wall for the wizards at the entrance to the ballroom. He sent a wall of force directly into that barrier, shattering it into deadly shards of shrapnel. He was Voldemort. He was power itself and their clever plan would fail against the likes of him.
Heedless of the fire, the statues charged the burning Trolls. Swinging wildly, one of the beasts crushed a statue with his club. The bishop shattered easily enough; perhaps too easily, as two flying balls shot out from the debris – enchanted bludgers. They immediately began swirling around the burning creature, striking it like a swarm of angry birds.
Again, the ploy was clever, but he remained unimpressed as the Troll fell to the floor, pummeled mercilessly by the manic orbs. Voldemort's own Killing Curse finished the troll. Not wanting anything to be wasted, he triggered a necromantic corpse detonation that destroyed the bludgers and two more approaching chess pieces.
The spells of his minions joined his and the Trolls caught in the middle died in a horrific clash of magic. He detonated two more demi-human corpses closest to the opposition and the explosions drove the defenders from the ballroom entrance, greatly widening the opening into the room.
Rookwood dispelled the silencing charm and the dying screams of the Trolls reached Voldemort's ears. Bludgers from the broken statues raced towards him. He conjured a solid shield that shattered the three zooming towards him. One of his Death Eaters was less quick and was struck in the face by the remaining ball. The body slid to the ground lifelessly. The cracked mask broke away, revealing the mangled face of Draco Malfoy.
Had he really expected better from Lucius' spawn? "Forward! Destroy the bludgers and kill them all!"
Obviously, Narcissa had thrown her lot in with Potter. Her spawn had been duped by his own treacherous mother. He grudgingly admired the layered defenses: poison gas, explosives, potions coating the floor, and enchanted statues with deadly payloads. Potter knew that he was outclassed, and had finally turned to some competent advisors. Potter had come a long way, but it was not far enough!
The waiting was getting to Harry. People were going to die today, for him and because of him. There was little he could do about it and no real guarantee that he would live through all of this. The plan for this ambush was conceived shortly after the Goblins had purchased Malfoy Manor.
Originally, he had hoped to lure Voldemort to the mansion and fill it with charmed bludgers as Dobby had used on him so long ago. Dumbledore had convinced him that it was too rash to work alone and they began to concoct a battlefield that was drawn from all of Harry's experiences. Perhaps the Dementor aura wasn't the power-the-Dark-Lord–knows-not - perhaps it was the life Harry had led and all of the adventures that had prepared him for this moment.
After Dumbledore's death, Harry realized he couldn't do this himself. He had to bring other people into it and he needed someone convincing to pull it all off.
He needed Narcissa.
Less than a week before the ambush, Harry had stood meters from Narcissa as she conversed with Draco. He waited a full minute after her son had left before removing his invisibility cloak.
"I pray he will stay clear of this." Narcissa hoped aloud.
Harry replied, "For his own sake, I hope so too. If I didn't know where your true loyalties were, I'd have believed you too."
"Are you certain of this, Harry? Do you really want to fight him now?" Narcissa asked breathlessly.
"You said it yourself. If we wait much longer, there may not be a Britain left to save. I'd rather fight him on my terms, in a place where we can control the battlefield. I'll need every advantage I can get."
"How is your wife taking this?"
Harry's expression was slightly pained, "She's accepted it. I won't say she's happy about it, but Susan understands."
"You mean she's a convincing actress."
Harry gave a small chuckle, "You needn't worry about our relationship; Narcissa. Susan did not hold back when she told me her opinion of the plan. My ears are still ringing, but she's the most practical person I've ever met. It didn't take long for her to stop thinking with her heart and start thinking with her head."
Narcissa nodded, fully understanding Susan Potter's motivations. "She's willing to fight for what she wants, just as I am. Now, the terms of our agreement …?"
Harry removed the Black family ring, holding it in his palm. "I, Harry James Potter, under no influence of sorcery or any other magics affecting my judgment, freely abdicate my leadership of the Ancient and Noble House of Black, that the headship may fall back to Narcissa Black, a true child of the Ancient and Noble House of Black. All rights, titles and vaults of this line are now yours, Lady Black."
Narcissa said nothing as she received the ring from him, daubing a drop of her blood on the face of the ring to activate the magics it contained. Then she looked up. "No reservations on your part Lord Potter? You may have diminished the vaults, but you are still handing a fortune in galleons and an even more valuable piece of your powerbase."
"No, Narcissa, I have no reservations; this was Sirius' dream for me to make something out of his family. If the Blacks are to be redeemed, let it be one who truly carries the name. Susan and I have more than enough responsibility between the Potter and Bones lines. I might remind you that you're using your son to lure a Dark Lord into a trap and if you weren't pregnant, you'd be fighting alongside of me in that trap."
Narcissa continued, "I will temporarily abdicate my role to Andromeda, who is powerful, but no fighter and perfectly suited for the demands of the moment. Charles, Theodore, and Nymphadora will protect her while she defends the new House of Black. He will think that the portraits are depleting you, when in fact they are drawing their strength from her. You just have to play the part of a tired hero."
"I've been playing that part since my fourth year."
"Touché! You're initial plan was flawed and relied too much on your own actions, but after the refinements by McGonagall and Dawlish, I believe it is the best chance for victory."
"I'll do everything in my power."
"You'll have to, otherwise all is lost."
"I know. Farewell, Lady Black."
"Fight well, Lord Potter."
Harry's trip down memory lane was interrupted as Percy streaked into the ballroom. The ghost had been spying on the forces in the not-so secret passageway. "Eight Trolls and a Banshee at the front!"
"The silencing field in the hallway will take care of her! How many Death Eaters?"
The ghost spoke hurriedly. "Roughly twenty!"
Harry looked at Hermione Granger. She nodded and all the black chess pieces rose from their pedestals and began to march towards the hallway. Everyone checked to make certain the charm that would prevent the bludgers from attacking them was firmly affixed. Professor Flitwick directed the frontline defenders. The second group would protect the first with an animated wall of debris. Cauldrons filled with sticking solution were overturned in the hallway. They had drilled for over a week in the Room of Requirement.
Harry eyes wandered to Ron Weasley, who clenched his wand and shuffled on his legs nervously.
The redhead spoke, "Just like we planned it. Let the first lines of defense weaken them and we'll counterattack as soon as they reach the ballroom. You just stand there and look worn out."
Hermione turned towards him, "William just sent the signal to those outside. They'll collapse the passageway shortly, driving them towards us. Merlin be with us all!"
Harry instinctively looked at Susan for reassurance and then realized how stupid he was being. Lupin was giving her a kiss for luck. It was rather disconcerting.
He smiled, getting what little humor he could out of the situation, "Lupin, get your tongue out of my wife's mouth!"
There was no time for a witty response as the Aurors at the frontline shouted. "They're coming!"
Hermione Granger came to. Where was she? What had happened? Was she a prisoner? She wasn't bound and felt instinctively for her wand. It was still there in its holster.
Her arms felt leaden as she struggled to rise from the cot.
"Take it easy Miss Granger," a voice she recognized as Pomona Sprout said.
"What happened?" Her words came out slurred. She desperately tried to remember what had happened. She was in the Hogwarts infirmary. Momentarily, she panicked. Her eyes focused on several other beds. Ron was next to her, still sleeping. She saw the Abbott sisters and several others as well. The last thing she could remember was Ron's father and Bill proposing a toast to Harry and Susan as they prepared to leave.
Susan's voice answered. "You were brought to Hogwarts. They gave you a sleeping draught so you wouldn't put up a fight."
"But the wedding…"
"Is a highly choreographed ambush," Susan finished for her. "Right now, the battle has already started."
Hermione tried to stand, but fell back onto her bed. Narcissa Black paced nervously up and down the aisle. "We should go help," Hermione said.
Susan shook her head sadly as Narcissa answered. "Harry wanted to make certain you lot are safe. If they fail, we're leaving for Australia. I pray we do not have to go."
"I should be at Harry's side. He needs me!" Hermione protested in a weak voice.
"Technically, you are beside him. It just happens to be Minerva McGonagall who'd been Polyjuiced into your form. Mr. Dawlish gets to walk for a few hours on Mr. Weasley's legs until his doses wear out. Harry has several competent allies in this battle."
Hermione drank the cup of juice thrust into her hands. It cleared the rest of the cobwebs in her mind. She wanted to scream in frustration. She hadn't felt so useless since waking up in the aftermath of the fight at the Department of Mysteries.
Instead of crying she looked at Susan who had regained her composure. "Did they drug you too?"
"No. I'd have been happy to take the draught, but the babies..." she trailed off before continuing. "I've got a cheering charm on me, but it isn't doing a blessed thing! Though, I'm guessing I'd be a wreck without it. Harry actually used the babies against me when I demanded to be there. He said that it might be one of our children that would fulfill the prophecy."
"What did you say to him?"
"Oh, nothing polite, I assure you; it was a blazing row. I think I tarnished my whole 'take everything in stride' image. Most of my rant was unrepeatable. I told him that he'd better not lay that burden on our children and that he'd better damn well win! In the end, I knew I'd be a liability, just like you, Ron, or pretty much any one that Harry really cared about."
Hermione was torn, trying to decide if she should be offended or not by Harry's actions. Instead, she asked, "Who is playing you?"
Hermione asked mostly out of curiosity about the interaction between Polyjuice and an expecting mother. If the potion would duplicate the body, would it actually create a fetus too? If the mother was in labor, could the fetus be birthed? What would happen to the newborn at the end of one hour?
The Wizarding world was somewhat ignorant of the moral and ethical dilemmas that they could create simply by waving a wand or brewing a draught. When she was nervous, Hermione occupied her mind with philosophical arguments. Apparently, she was very nervous at the moment.
"Tonks is morphed up as me," Susan answered glumly.
"Oh." Hermione briefly considered discussing her Polyjuice theories with Susan, but shelved the idea, doubting that they would be welcome at this time. With the others sleeping soundly around them, unaware that their fate was being decided miles away, Hermione hoped that good would triumph over evil.
Finally she had to ask, "Who came up with all this?"
Narcissa replied. "The original idea came from Harry, though he credited a house elf of all things. It was something he and Dumbledore were working on after the Goblins bought my former home. Others, including myself, made contributions, but Harry felt it would be best to face him on a field of his choosing." Narcissa started to say something else, but Hermione saw that the older witch's attention was drawn to one of the four ribbons wrapped around her wrists. The pink, brown, and red ribbons remained unchanged, but the golden one had just turned black.
"No! Draco! My son! Why didn't you listen?"
"What is it?" Both Hermione and Susan asked at the same time. Susan glanced at the green ribbon around her wrist and Hermione understood what the charmed ribbon did.
The distraught woman sobbed for a moment. "He's gone. I all but begged him not to be there! I've killed him. I just helped kill my own son!"
The corpse detonations drove the defenders back. Once again, the lack of quality Necromancers in England saddened Lord Voldemort. The fire and the smoke provided ample cover for his advancing troops. Augustus Rookwood and four others used charms on their boots and ran along the walls, hurling destruction from their wands as Lord Voldemort brought the rest straight down the middle.
He conjured a solid shield with his yew wand and advanced, feeling three spells impact harmlessly upon the barrier.
Curses streaked by, striking several of his fighters. Three had fallen, but the response was a volley of Killing Curses. This would be a magnificent sight to behold in a Pensieve. Lord Voldemort advancing, spells slamming into his shield surrounded by emerald streaks of death. It was glorious! Some were blocked by the charmed objects, some missed altogether, but at least five found their mark.
As the second volley passed him, he dispelled his shield and fired a pair of detonation curses, blasting the opposition backwards, further into the ballroom. His blood was pumping and he had never felt more alive than this moment! There was a tug at the mental link connecting him and the boy, a tug that he ignored. 'This, this was their mighty trap! This was the best you can do without Dumbledore! Hah! Learn some new tricks boy!'
Lord Voldemort slowed, allowing his fighters to pass him. It was one thing to be arrogant; it was quite another to be careless. As the last of the black chess pieces were destroyed, the white ones began to advance.
One of Rookwood's "flankers" leapt into the room heedless of the warnings about the paintings. While that Death Eater was casting a blasting curse, four minor jinxes from nearby paintings hit him, causing him to "fall" from the side of the wall. Three more potent curses from very real Aurors slammed into the body, ensuring that Lord Voldemort would not have the opportunity to personally scold the flanker.
Harry felt the thunderous detonations of the Troll bodies. People scattered backwards as the first line of defense faltered. They regrouped and sent curses en mass, but just as quickly, Killing Curses answered, causing several people to fall. Dawlish and Flitwick continued directing the defenses as they gave ground. McGonagall sent the white chess pieces forward to buy a few moments to regroup. An alarm sounded, indicating the outer wards were under attack! If the people stationed outside couldn't turn back this second front, there's a chance he could kill Voldemort only to die during the next attack.
Of course, there was the small task of killing Voldemort first. He would worry about what comes next after he checked that box.
He wanted to be up at the front with the others, but McGonagall shook her head. Let Riddle fight a little and wear himself down. He tried dropping his mental defenses around the link to the Dark Lord, hoping to disorient his enemy, but Riddle didn't bite. At the other end of the link Harry could feel the man mocking him.
Harry banked on the fact that the "power-the-Dark-Lord–knows-not" was Harry Potter – the sum total of his experience, the chessmen, the statues, and so many other things drawn from his past adventures. He'd pulled out all the stops. If there was a kitchen sink lying around, Harry would banish it at Riddle when the time came. Harry tried to remain calm knowing that "wearing Tom down" was a euphemism for letting other people die.
He watched the faux Hannah Abbott fall and heard Bill Weasley cry out in anguish at Emmeline Vance's death. Bill turned his wand on the Dark Lord, who was fighting with Dawlish and Flitwick, among others. Bill's curse slammed into Voldemort's armor, but did no harm. Voldemort twisted out of the way of the Charms Master's attempt to seize the initiative and killed Bill Weasley so fast it was doubtful Bill had even seen it coming.
Over half the Death Eaters had been laid low by the traps and the initial wave of combat, but the sheer power Riddle could harness was capable of turning the tide. Harry didn't care if it was too soon. He had to join the fighting.
"Tonks, McGonagall! It's now or never!" Harry shouted, only to see that Minerva was already engaged with a Death Eater, but the older woman screamed that it was too soon.
Harry ignored her. With anger fueling his magic, he cut loose at Riddle. No one else should die to improve his odds!
The defenses were crumbling. Lord Voldemort knew this. He was dueling against as many as four at a time and like always, winning. Spells left his wands so fast that to an observer, it would appear that he was actually dual casting.
The person pretending to be Potter's sidekick was far too skilled and barked orders. Voldemort recognized the voice – Dawlish using Dumbledore's Polyjuice trick. He and Flitwick fought as a pair with the Auror defending the dwarf.
A bone breaker slammed into his vest. He grunted knowing it would leave a bruise and whipped a killing curse back in reply, cutting down another one.
"Why won't they all just die?"
Voldemort gave ground as the paintings continue snapping of spells in every direction. "How much longer can you keep it up, Harry?"
Pieces of debris entangled and solidified into a barrier as his two primary opponents both attempted to attack, abandoning their team tactic. Their spells failed against his shield as Voldemort finished off yet another gnat. "You're running out of playmates, Harry! I'm coming for you!"
Dawlish and Flitwick moved to Voldemort's left, pulling him farther away from the boy, blasting curses and cutting curses weaving a deadly rainbow through the air. The Dark Lord added his own dazzling array of colors to the firefight, but as they wandered too close to some little blonde witch's body, Voldemort played his hand. "The fools never learn do they? Discover the wonder that is Necromancy!"
Dawlish was closest to the detonation as the witch's body sprayed them with blood and bone. The ex-Auror caught the brunt of it. Still, the dwarf weighed much less and was sent flying through the air and into the wall. Dawlish tried to stand up, impaled with what used to be part of a female arm skewering him. As the Auror fell, he cast one final spell, which the Dark Lord easily dodged. Voldemort didn't waste a killing curse on the dying man; a well-placed piercing curse tore through the top of his skull.
He felt the rush of magic coming towards him and spun out of the way. It gouged a trench into the masonry – a cutting curse and a damn fine one at that. A salvo of blasting curses and piercing curses followed it.
"At last! No more games Potter! No more distractions!"
Harry missed with his cleaver. Voldemort was too fast! Those that trained Harry told him that he was as fast as humanly possible. Some of Voldemort's rituals had clearly taken him beyond that level. Harry quickly followed with an ice spear. That Voldemort banished across the room.
Tonks fired a swarm of hailstones, knowing it wouldn't do much damage, but even with the Dark Lord's speed, he would have to take some hits. One of the remaining Aurors tried for a lucky strike with a reductor. Harry screamed a warning as Riddle answered by transfiguring a chair into an Arcomantula.
Harry banished it off the man, but was forced to defend himself against a wall of debris hurled at him. He ducked under most of it, but a vase smashed into his arm knocked him sideways. It spoiled his return fire as Voldemort rounded on Tonks.
"See your precious wife die, Potter! Avada Kedavra!"
Tonks cast a slicing hex using Susan's willow and Phoenix feather wand, just as they had practiced. As Harry expected, Riddle was using his yew wand primarily, but every spell that came at Harry was with the wand in Riddle's right hand. Tonks' borrowed wand locked with it and once more the sound of Fawkes' song could be heard as the brother wands invoked the magical cage.
None of Voldemort's fighters had been present the last time the brother wand effect had occurred. All of the defenders had witnessed it several times during their practices. They used this advantage to decimate their opponents.
Harry knew he had seconds to press his advantage while Tonks held him in check. The cage prevented him from directly attacking Tom, but there was something else he could do. Using a cutting curse from his holly and chimera fur wand, he killed the Arcomantula and transformed into his raven form.
The Dark Lord was frustrated, caught in the brother wand effect from Potter's little bitch! The light forces were using this as an opportunity to finish off his remaining followers. He needed to break the hold quickly and finish them! Focusing his will he fought against the witch. She wasn't in her husband's league, not by any means. The bitch, however, refused to let go, pitting her feeble powers against him. Her features began to melt.
"Ah, well played Harry. Your Metamorph bodyguard substituting for your dear wife. No matter, she still is no match for me!"
That was when he felt the icy chill of a Dementor. What were they doing here? He had sent the few remaining ones on the raids! No, it's coming from a black bird. That was Potter's Animagus form. Suddenly, it all made sense! No wonder the Dementors feared the boy!
He cried in anger as the aura gnawed at him. He couldn't summon a Patronus because the thrice cursed link with the other wand held by the woman who would not let go. She held on despite the fact that the aura was clearly affecting her too. He redoubled his mental efforts to resist the debilitating field of energy the Animagus directed at him.
The female cried, sinking to her knees and holding her wand with both hands, "I'll see you in hell! Die you bastard!"
Potter's Dementor-like attributes continued to punish him and yet the woman still held onto the connection. The phantoms of spells were jetting out of the witch's wand as his will and power overcame hers, but she refused to let go. One of Dumbledore's insipid Order members could be heard shouting for her to drop her wand, but the witch refused, until moments later the wand literally exploded in her hands and she collapsed in a heap.
"Expecto Patronum!" Voldemort shouted, shaking from the prolonged exposure to the aura and the drain from fighting the Metamorph. His snake Patronus struck the raven out of the sky, sinking its ethereal teeth into one of the wings. Potter transformed midway back to the ground, hitting it hard.
Voldemort followed with a piercing curse that burrowed through Potter's armor and opened a wound in the cursed brat's midsection. The boy screamed, and slapped his injured arm over the wound. Voldemort sent a second cutting curse at him, but Potter blocked it. Frantically, the Dark Lord searched his spirit for reserves of energy to finish off this pretender, while his opponent rapidly fired spells at him.
Painful bits of ice struck him in on his right side, one in the temple momentarily blinding him. The Order Werewolf standing over his fallen witch screamed at him, sending a constant stream of hail. Lord Voldemort whipped his wand around with the Killing Curse on his lips when Potter struck back.
"Crucio!" Bellatrix had once told Harry that he needed to want to inflict pain. Harry wanted Tom to suffer like never before! The curse lifted Riddle off the ground and slammed him into the wall. Remus had given Harry an opening and he seized it. Harry forced his legs forward, keeping his nearly skeletal hand on his stomach where he could feel his ruined intestines threatening to spill out. The arm itself was badly injured from exposure to Riddle's Patronus. That was the last thing Harry wanted to worry about right now!
His own pain didn't matter. His own life didn't matter anymore either. Riddle struggled to rise and was actually trying to cast a spell from his wands, when both Charlie and Remus struck him with disarming charms. Both wands flew from the Dark Lord's hands as he was bashed into the wall for a second time.
Harry couldn't keep the spell locked onto him and despite nearly fifteen seconds under the Cruciatus curse, Riddle stood roaring in pain. A mere ten feet separated them.
One hand reached out and Harry realized he was going to summon one of his wands using wandless magic. Harry looked to stop it, before he realized it was a feint.
He'd thrown something at Harry and its speed increased with a wandless banisher.
Instinctively, Harry threw his arm up, uncaring of the wound in his gut. The white bone knife ripped into his flesh, nearly severing his cursed limb. The force of the strike whipped Harry's arm around with a painful snap.
Harry spun and thrust his wand out towards Voldemort who was diving for an abandoned wand on the floor. "Tonare!" Harry's blasting curse at nearly point blank range blew a hole into Voldemort's already weakened vest and through to the other side, spraying blood onto the wall.
Both fighters fell, Voldemort looked as if he was trying to cast another wandless spell, but instead gurgled blood out his mouth and collapsed. Harry too was lying on his side bleeding freely from abdomen and his pierced and broken arm. People were rushing towards him, but all he could do was stare into the eyes of the man who had brought so much misery upon Harry's world and watch as the life left Tom Riddle's eyes.
For the first time in years, perhaps his entire life, Harry was truly free. How long he would be able to enjoy his freedom was another question.
"Hang in there Harry! I won't lose you too! Charlie cauterize his arm! To hell with it, the knife's probably poisoned! Take it off at the break. If it isn't, we'll try to reattach it later. I'll work on his stomach. Harry swallow this blood replensisher! Come on cub, swallow it! Fucking swallow it! Give me a damn bezoar!"
Choking on his own blood and the potion, Harry almost laughed. He'd never heard Remus Lupin use such language.
December 25th, 1996
Like many years before, wizards and witches celebrated in the streets. The Dark Lord had again been felled by Harry Potter. For all intents and purposes, the war was over.
Harry slowly opened his eyes. He recognized the room as one on the high security wing at St. Mungo's. His throat felt raw and parched. A smelly poultice covered his aching stomach, bandages soaked in exotic and definitely odorous potions.
Slowly he moved his neck, looking for his arm. As he feared, there was nothing below the elbow. In all likelihood, he would be the flightless raven and the one-armed wizard from now on, but he was alive and that meant more to him than anything.
In the chair next to his bed, Susan was sleeping with a book open on her lap. Without his glasses, he couldn't make it out, but it looked like one of the many parenting books she had been reading of late. She was beautiful when she was slept; he liked watching her.
In a perfect world, he'd get up and wake her with a kiss. Another look at his stomach told him that he wasn't going anywhere for a while. He settled for reaching with his right hand and taking her left hand in his.
"Harry! You're awake!"
"Can't get much by you, can I?"
She looked flustered and tears came to her eyes. Both her hands closed around his and she had a bit of a death grip on him. "I almost lost you!"
"You didn't. It doesn't matter now. I made it. Well, most of me made it."
"They couldn't salvage your arm. I'm sorry. We're still not sure if the knife was poisoned, but it did something to the flesh around the wound. The healers didn't want to chance reattaching it, but Mister Lupin and Hermione have been working on that silver arm spell. They're pretty certain they'll have it, what was the term Hermione used, 'reverse engineered?' Yes, I think that was it! Anyway, they think they'll have it soon."
He tried to be cheerful even though any thoughts of playing professional Quidditch were gone. "See if they can do it in gold or bronze. Silver's not really my color, too Slytherin. Besides, I wouldn't want Mooney to get jumpy whenever I pass him the salt at dinner. Can I get something to drink?"
She gave him some water and cast a breath-freshening spell on both of them before giving him an awkward, but very welcome kiss.
After that, Healer Issacs came in and checked him over. When she had left, Harry and Susan talked about the battle and the aftermath. Harry had been out for two days. It was actually Christmas day.
Tonks had perished during her struggle with Riddle. Harry had sullenly admitted that he feared Tonks had a death wish. Susan said she had witnessed the battle through Remus' memories and noting how the werewolf had begged her to break the connection and she had stubbornly refused. The autopsy concluded that Tonks had suffered a heart attack induced by the magical exhaustion and likely, though Susan refused to say it, the exposure to the Dementor aura. Andromeda had survived, but Ted Tonks had not. She would now be mourning both her daughter and husband. Harry already knew about Bill, Emmeline, and Dawlish. The curse of the Defense Teacher had claimed yet another victim. Finally, Harry broke down, making up for the crying he didn't do during the course of the war.
Susan gingerly held him and attempted to comfort him. She said Professor Flitwick was resting comfortably in the next room and recovering from his injuries. Professor McGonagall was already at Hogwarts, preparing for the students return. After a time, Susan asked him what he wanted to do now.
"Good evening to you all. I speak to you tonight over the wireless not as your Minister, but as a fellow admirer of Harry James Potter. Through his bravery and heroism, a Dark Lord has been defeated. Peace and order will return to this land. I have just come from seeing him and his wife at St. Mungo's.
Harry's wounds are grave, but no longer life threatening. He is in good spirits and sincerely appreciates all the well wishes. Again, I was struck by Harry's humility. When I spoke of his forthcoming Order of Merlin, Harry expressed his wishes that all the dead be honored and buried before he would accept the highest award in our land.
Now that the danger is subsiding, the Potters will be taking a bit of a vacation together and to reap the rewards of peace that they so richly deserve. I would ask that you give Harry and Susan the space and privacy they need to get on with their lives and raise their family. I was surprised to learn that Mrs. Potter is already with child!
As we look forward to the new and prosperous year ahead of us, let us look forward to a new Britain. Let us heal our wounds, bury our fallen, and rebuild our society. Under my continued stewardship, we can work to prevent the darkness from ever showing itself again on our soil!"
January 25th, 1997
The man staring at Rufus Scrimgeour finished presenting his case. "My country demands that Narcissa Black, formerly known as Narcissa Malfoy, be extradited to France to stand trial for crimes committed in our country."
Rufus looked at the French Foreign Minister, who, depending on the day, was either the second or third most powerful person in France before reminding himself that he wasn't in France.
"Your demands place me in a rather difficult position, Monsieur Delacour and I understand that you have a personal stake in this as well, but I have also been allowed to view her recollection of the incident in my Pensieve and while I note that she did in fact use an Unforgivable curse, it was your wife who openly admitted to holding Charles Arthur Weasley as a hostage whom she intended to execute. I would only consider allowing the soon-to-be Narcissa Weasley over to French authorities when your wife's trial for kidnapping, blackmail, and conspiracy to commit murder is complete. When I have a notion of the true measure of French justice, I will be able to decide if it is appropriate to hand over one of our war heroes."
"There are agreements and there are treaties between our Ministries. Is the word and signature of the English no longer good for anything?"
"Monsieur Delacour, the treaties and agreements are sound, but there are processes to be followed; there is also common sense. Narcissa Black is a war hero and the greatest hero of this war, Harry Potter refers to her as Aunt Narcissa. He granted her the title of Lady Black giving a portion of his political power to her. His voting block is one of my staunchest supporters. To honor your request would be tantamount to political suicide and for what? To appease your anger at your wife's infidelity? I have a copy of the memory here, if you choose to view it. You can clearly hear her say that this was not the first time. If you are adamant in your demands, I would also be forced, in the interests of full disclosure, to make public the attempt by your daughter on Harry Potter's life. I do believe that she was aided by Undersecretary Beaucourt's late youngest daughter."
Claude Delacour's face contorted in anger. "You are very full of yourself, good Minister, but by refusing to hand over a wanted criminal, my country can and will take this complaint to the ICW."
"Then it will join our complaint against France for the inordinate amount of French Witches, Wizards, Vampire and Veela that participated in our war on the side of the Dark Lord."
The fair-haired man bellowed, "You know none of that was sanctioned!"
There was no smile on Rufus Scrimgeour's face, only a predatory look. "Do I? Do I know that for certain? I have only reassurances from you and your government along with the requests that I commit political suicide to fulfill your petty, personal vendetta. Minister Delacour, this would be a good time for you to leave my office. Your country would be better served in the future by sending someone less involved with the matter. I will not consider it an insult, if that is what you are afraid of."
"This isn't over Scrimgeour!" the Frenchman bellowed.
"I agree. I also should mention that if our hero should find herself whisked away to France, that it might be slightly more than the British population would be willing to tolerate from a country that supplied so many of Voldemort's fighters. Three of the five giants were from the French reservation. Seventy percent of the Vampires were French as were all of the Veelas. If we were to investigate further, I'm willing to bet that one or more of them might be blood relations to your wife. Now, begone!"
His door slammed with the exit of the French Foreign Minister. Rufus relaxed and allowed some of the tension to leave him. A witch entered from his side chamber.
"You baited him rather masterfully, Rufus. You've gotten better over the years." Madame Faircloth said, chuckling from under her glamours.
"He suffers from an overabundance of pride. This is too personal to him, but I thank you for your compliment. Your pardon will be official in a few days and then I will start the process of getting your Undersecretary position restored. It will likely be an interim appointment, subject to frequent review, but that is the reality."
She gave him a graceful smile. "I'm only too familiar with how the winds of change can blow."
"Now what is the latest on the remaining Death Eaters?"
"Mulciber and Rookwood are leading them. They still have access to a considerable fortune, but are less than twenty in number. Of course they believe I will be their spy in the Ministry. Be certain that when I am questioned under Veritaserum that you ask whether I have had any unauthorized contact with Death Eaters."
"Naturally. You will need to steer them towards operating out of Northern France. Our budget cannot currently sustain the Freedom Guard, so I will decommission most of the force while funneling monies into domestic rebuilding for the next year. We will make dueling clubs a priority and foster an atmosphere of 'Never Again' amongst the population. In two to three years, when our people have mended their wounds and had their bellies filled with peace, that's when we identify the Death Eaters and their French Allies. With any luck, we'll have enough of a case to go to war against France."
"Do you still intend to pursue the same diplomatic agendas in Portugal and Spain that Lord Voldemort laid the groundwork for?"
"Yes, with those two countries as our allies we will push into France from two fronts. We will conquer and divide France and then turn our attention to the Ministries of Central Europe. In ten years England shall be the predominant force in Europe."
"What of Harry Potter?"
"He's had his fill of war. Unlike our Muggle counterparts, we haven't given up all of our possessions. One of our smaller islands in the Bahamas has been granted to him. He will be given his private retreat and a place to relax and enjoy his hard-earned victory away from the limelight. He plans to take his wife there for the birth of their children and to work on their marriage, now the war has been won. I find that attitude quite admirable. If necessary, I will arrange private tutors and for the NEWT examiners to travel there, if they should choose not to return for their seventh year."
She mulled it over, "And what of our plans, two years down the road?"
"The flashpoint of our coming conflict will likely come because of Narcissa, who will be handling his interests while he is out of the Isles. I will make it clear that I completely support her. If necessary, she will become our Helen of Troy. Harry is extremely loyal to those in his immediate circle and he values loyalty. I will be a very loyal ally of the Potter and Black families. Narcissa might spot something suspicious in the air, but then again, it would be in her best interest to not offer any quaint observations. Between that and the Death Eaters operating on French soil, it should be enough to gain at the very least his tacit approval. If not, one or two of his other friends might need to be slain by the Death Eaters or French Agents in a reprisal."
Madame Faircloth nodded, comprehending the situation. Potter's role could be limited and funneled into their cause or he can be given the option to fade into the background. "I apologize, Rufus. I thought you had merely gotten better. Clearly, I have underestimated you."
June 16th, 1997
Among the overseas holdings of the British Ministry were several small islands in the Bahamas – one of which was renamed Godric's Isle and deeded to Lord Potter in recognition of his service to the Wizarding World.
It was on this island two months ago that George Rubeus, Amelia Susan and Dana Katherine Potter came into this world. Harry and Susan opted not to return to Hogwarts for the remainder of the year and instead hired private tutors to continue their education.
Susan walked along the beach, listening to the waves crash on the sand. She was still a long way from regaining her figure, but the exercise was helping. She felt safe here. In addition to their tutors, there was a pair of bodyguards on staff. Their house elf, Trixie easily handled her duties and found time to be a superb nanny. Remus Lupin was a semi-permanent resident of the island. Also for the next few months, Charlie Weasley, Narcissa Black and Sirius William Black were here. There was some talk that Narcissa had persuaded Charlie to take the Black name as his own.
The island was as heavily warded as the rebuilt Azkaban. It would be a strong deterrent, but not nearly as frightening as the idea of taking on one of the men she approached. Her husband was not yet seventeen, but already known as one of the most powerful wizards in the world.
"Please tell me are not playing 'bumper bassinets' again!" She glared at Harry. He looked good. His training sessions with the bodyguards, instructors and Remus were not nearly as intense as before, but it was clear that Harry was not going to allow his hard-earned skills to fade.
She might be biased, being married to him, but Susan considered herself a very lucky woman. His bronze colored magical arm was covered by a permanent glamour to make it appear normal, but with his island tan, he now matched the hue of his replacement arm. Remus had taken to calling him "Doc Savage" after the fictional "Man of Bronze" and had purchased Harry the books to read.
"No, we were not playing that." Harry said smiling, but trying to sound indignant. "You're just mad because you never win at bumper bassinets. Remus and I are actually doing something educational for our children."
"Should I be scared?"
Harry waved his wand and the arrow spun on the magically resized "See and Say" coming to rest on a cow. "The cow goes Moo!"
Next he pointed his wand at the table and transfigured it into a cow and made it moo. "Look! I think Amelia's smiling!"
Susan rolled her eyes, but was impressed at the casual display of power as she wondered how long he'd been doing this. "In a ten week old, it's probably still gas."
"Odds are with Ron, it's probably still gas too." Harry added.
Susan laughed as she burped her daughter. "I'll be sure to tell him that when he gets here. When should we expect them?"
"Not for a few more weeks. Now that both he and Hermione are seventeen, they're taking a trip across the Continent for a month or so with Hermione's folks until Hermione gets bored of dragging him to museums and such. They'll be here by the middle of July."
"Think they'll be engaged by the time they get here? I heard it through the grapevine that Justin had a long talk with Hannah's father."
"Well if Ron still wants to, after spending weeks with Hermione running his life, I reckon it must be love, but he really hasn't given me any indication he's going in that direction any time soon. We did get a nice thank you from Terry and Marietta Higgs for our wedding present."
"Was that Scrimgeour's lackey I saw over here earlier?"
"What does the Minister want this time? The usual 'dog and pony show' where he begs you to show up in person at the Wizengamot?" Susan asked with a hint of bitterness in her tone.
"Actually, no. They want us to bring the triplets to St. Mungo's for a 'well baby' checkup that just happens to coincide with the opening of a new wing of rooms."
"Scrimgeour isn't satisfied with trying to whore my husband out, so he's going after my children too! The man is drunk on his own power!"
"Easy there freckles. I sent the nice Ministry employee on his way with a few pictures and a couple of quotes for the Daily Prophet. That's all I'm in the mood to give right now. I'm spending the entire summer here. Some of Dumbledore's old allies in the Wizengamot are keeping an eye on our Minister for me. He clearly wants me out of the way, which I don't really mind, but that means he's probably plotting something. I'm not the wide-eyed boy I was a year ago. That's why I have met with the American President and the Canadian Minister. That's why I'm going to attend the fall ICW session to receive yet another ridiculous honor. For now, Scrimgeour's interests are aligned with ours, but he wouldn't hesitate to paint me as the next Dark Lord if he wanted to neutralize me I want to head that off at the pass! We'll put in an appearance or two in Britain during the last week in August, and I promised Headmistress McGonagall that we'd stop by the welcoming feast, but I think I'm right where I'm needed most."
Susan placed her daughter back in the bassinet and made certain the sun protection charms on all three were potent enough before sitting in his lap and wrapping her arms around him. "I'll let the freckles comment slide, green eyes and you bet your skinny little arse that you're right where you're supposed to be."
August 5th, 1997
Anne Carpenter sat looking out across the expanse of the Arizona desert. It was quite warm, bordering on insanely hot outside. She looked at the woman in front of her and smiled.
"Thank you again for seeing me on such short notice, Dean Richardson. I apologize for not being able to arrange for suitable child care. We're new to the area and I'm afraid I don't know anyone well enough to entrust my son to their care."
The older woman regarded Anne sternly but, she allowed her expression to soften upon seeing the small child in the young woman's arms. She took in the tiny tufts of red hair and the cobalt blue eyes that stared directly at her. "My, isn't he just the most adorable little boy. You're raising a little heart breaker. I'd normally be going on about my three grandchildren already, but we really should attend to business first. Now why is a nice English lady like yourself out here in the middle of nowhere, applying for a job that no one wants, teaching at a school that's only open because the Wizarding Congress has a treaty with these people to provide them training? Pity we couldn't just renege on our treaties like our mundane counterparts."
Anne turned and looked out the window, still cradling the baby to her chest. "You've no doubt heard about the war in England. It was awful. It cost me my child's father as well as my own. I wanted a fresh start away from England and this is where we ended up."
Norma Richardson's walked over and placed a comforting hand on Anne's back. "I'm sorry dear. Forgive a foolish old witch for asking. You see things in the papers and hear a thing or two on the wireless, but it all seems so distant."
Anne gave the woman a soft smile. "I don't blame you for asking. Being a widowed witch with a child carries a stigma that I've gotten used to. It's one of the things I didn't like back home."
"Oh you shouldn't worry. You're quite a pretty young thing. I think you'll have your pick of the wizards, though I wouldn't recommend recruiting locally among the heathens." Norma said, dropping her voice into a conspirator-like whisper.
"Goodness, it's too early for me to even begin thinking about that. I want to get my feet back under me, so to speak, before I even consider that!" Anne ignored the blatant bigotry from the woman.
"You've got a good head on your shoulders and impeccable records. I think I have met my new Charms Mistress! How are you on a broom?"
"I'm no Quidditch player, but I can hold my own."
"Our Master of Flight will be retiring at the end of the year. I'd rather not have to hire another one of them, if I don't have to. That will give me the justification to give you some of the larger quarters for you and your little one."
Anne gave a grateful smile. "I don't want to over commit myself just yet. I'd like to see how the course load goes this year."
They began to discuss salary and other terms when the Anne's son made some cooing noises and gestured with his tiny hand. Tiny shimmering lights flickered around his fingers.
"Oh my goodness! I've never seen accidental magic at such an early age. How old is he?"
"Anthony's just shy of nine months old. He's been doing this for a few weeks now, when he wants his mummy's attention. I'm guessing he's hungry. Is there a place I can take him for a feeding?"
"I have a private reading room just through that door. Go ahead and use it. I'm just amazed. You'll want to get him some private instruction as he grows up." The Dean of Treaty School Two leaned in to look at the tiny boy. "Anthony Carpenter, we'll be expecting great things from you. My goodness! Did his eyes just turn red?"
Anne laughed, "Oh yes. They do that when he is excited. Just give mummy a second to get the potion supplement from my bag."
"You use a potion supplement? My daughter-in-law, Sharon uses them also. She swears by them. Do you brew your own?"
Anne nodded, "Home brewed. It's more expensive, but it's worth every sickle. Little Anthony is going to grow big and strong."
She carried her baby into the lavishly decorated room and smiled, seeing no paintings. The real Anne Carpenter had been a year ahead of Penelope. No one would ever find her body. Back on the east coast, things had gotten a bit dicey after Skeeter had been eliminated. It was time for a clean start. She applied the potion supplement to each nipple and stared into her child's eyes. "We'll start over here. There is a group of oppressed and disillusioned magical people waiting for a voice to lead them. They need a message. They need a direction. They need you."
What remained of Voldemort, albeit in a much smaller body, instinctively latched on. The other him had failed. This wasn't immortality, but an extension of his work with the diary that he had proven through the manipulation of the Vampire Coedus. The fool never realized that he had simply overwritten Frank Longbottom's memories with the Vampire's own. He had essentially killed himself that day.
The Vampire was a necessary proof of concept, brought to fruition in this new body now hosting the memories of the once and future Dark Lord. He was technically an imprint of Lord Voldemort performed on the unborn fetus. The ritual had nearly cost Penny her life, and it had only worked because his other self had absorbed Percy Weasley's magic, granting him a connection with the child.
Sadly, he would only be as powerful as this child's body could be, but Penny was a powerful witch and there were a bevy of rituals available to him and the wealth of experience left to him in journals written by his former self. No, it truly wasn't immortality, but it was the next best thing and a true "flight from death."
His Goddaughter turned biological mother would provide a much better start than Merope Gaunt. He was curious if he would still be able to speak Parsel. He was able to make a few intelligible sounds at this point. It would still be a few more months before he could truly speak.
He would persevere. What was a year or two, when he had spent thirteen years as a disembodied spirit?
Penny was correct, the Native Americans should be resentful of their oppressors. This run-down school, with its half-hearted teaching staff will become the new training ground for his future army. The other him erred in recruiting the 'haves'. He would try it again with the "have-nots."
Anthony Lloyd Carpenter was a proud name. He'd refrain from idiotic anagrams this time. In a sense, he had already reinvented himself. Anthony was to honor Antonin. He mourned his passing.
Carpenter, what an ironic name; Voldemort reveled in the irony. He wouldn't be the first powerful being to start out a humble carpenter.
Author's notes – This is where I choose to end this story. I may write a 19 years later one shot or short in this universe, but I think this universe has run its course. It leaves enough to the imagination to hopefully provoke some thought on your parts, but feels like an good enough spot to call it finished. Keeping to my realism theme, the happy ending is more like a "truce" called as people begin to pursue their own agendas.
Up next, I will be taking The Lie I've Lived off hiatus and starting fresh installments while alternating with Turn Me Loose. I have another HP story called "The Inner Eye of Harry Potter" which should be ready at the beginning of the year. There is a very good chance that some of my original works will find there way into print in the next year and I hope that when that time comes you readers will find it in your hearts (and wallets) to sample what I can do with original short stories and novels.