Disclaimer: I'm still not JKR. Nor do I own Monty Python, StarTrek, StarWars, Nintendo, various online sources or anything else I brazenly used to achieve my own ends.
A/N: Hugethanks to lbfan. His suggestions (which include the addition of a rather significant black thong, lol) really added some great finishing touches to these last chapters. alix33 and Allanon, my gratitude for your spell-checks and spotting of plot holes!
The End Begins
Hermione said, "Sleeping Beauty," and tapped her wand against the secret drawer in her trunk.
"That was your password?" Harry was incredulous. A bit sarcastically he added, "Anyone could have guessed that!"
"Well, I tried to act it out, but Ron only wondered if I was sick and nearly sent me to Hagrid," she said dryly.
"What's it supposed to mean?" Ginny frowned.
"Well, it's got to do with the notes," Hermione bit her lip, glancing at Harry for permission to continue. At his nod, she took a deep breath and began to flip through the pages. "You'd probably best sit down for this," she said uncertainly, conjuring chairs. "Okay, Harry, your birthday is July 31. If you count back nine months, your conception date was on or about Halloween."
Dobby disappeared with a pop, reappearing with several bottles of butterbeer, which he distributed discreetly.
Hermione smiled gratefully. "Thanks Dobby. I'm sure this will taste better than my usual Tuna Colada."
Dobby fluttered his ears in delight, the tips flushing pink with pleasure.
"Right," she began again. "Well, you know Halloween is one of the liminal times of the year when the boundary separating the dead from the living is blurred and magic is very potent. October 31st is the last day of the bright half of the year, the next day is the beginning of winter, or Samhain.
"Your mum lit a special candle, imploring the spirits to bless her with a child; a new hope." Hermione smiled. "When she discovered she was carrying you, she couldn't have been happier.
"By the time you were born, the situation with Voldemort had escalated, of course. They learned about the prophesy. They started researching methods to keep you safe, knowing Voldemort knew of at least part of the prophesy. Eventually that meant going into hiding under the Fidelius Charm.
She paused to check the notes again. "Harry, you know you your mum was Muggle-born. One of her favourite fairy tales was Sleeping Beauty. Actually, that's how I broke the code. I realized there were certain words on the first page that didn't fit, and when I underlined them on the page, they formed the story, which created a template that carried through to the rest of the notes. Genius, really, because it was so random. It wasn't every third word, or any certain pattern. I made my template transparent, keeping the lines in place, and on each page, the words that corresponded with the lines formed sentences.
"Anyway, it was the first part of the story that intrigued her. You know how it goes. A king and queen longed for a baby. When the baby was born, they invited good fairies to be godmothers, and the fairies bestowed gifts upon the baby. Two of them gave her wit, grace, beauty and musical talents. But then, a wicked witch arrived, and angry at not being invited, cursed the baby to prick her finger on a spindle and die. The witch disappeared, leaving the devastated parents in her wake. The last fairy, though she could not reverse the spell, altered it so the girl would not die, but fall asleep."
Harry nodded, wondering where this was leading.
"The story is actually similar to a variety of old myths. Your mum started researching ancient magic, trying to find historical basis for the myths and finally discovered a potion with a charm she thought would work. Unfortunately, it required the ultimate sacrifice on her part. She accepted that, though, and made preparations. She kept looking for other options as well, and created a new potion to help you defeat Voldemort. Unicorn blood is the main ingredient. That potion is still locked in the Department of Mysteries at the Ministry. You'll find it in the Love Room; the door that is always locked. It has a password, and you will need to go there to retrieve it."
"I'll just pop over one of these days and pick that up," said Harry facetiously. "Is that all?"
"No." Hermione sighed apologetically. "Shortly after you were born, your parents both gave you gifts like the fairies in the story; similar to you putting thoughts in Monty's head. Remember the conversation we had about the Sorting Hat? How the founders put brains in it? Your mum found out how to do it. It wasn't as simple as exchanging thoughts, like you did. It was like giving you pieces of themselves. Not their knowledge or memories; more like a bit of their spirit and talents. Your father gave you his Animagus form as your Patronus. Your mum gave you part of her conscience. I don't think she quite trusted Sirius to set the best example for you as your godfather."
"Ah. That explains things."
"Your dad also made sure you loved to fly," Hermione smiled. "He wanted you to be a professional Quidditch player. He also gave you his hatred of Dark Arts. It's also why you can resist the Imperius Curse and Veela so easily.
"You know they were quite talented in Potions, Charms and Transfiguration, but they chose not to pass those along. They wanted you to develop your own talents, so your wand would choose you for who you are, not for who they were."
"But they made me who I am." Harry frowned, rubbing the back of his neck agitatedly. "They created me like some kind of puppet or something."
"No, that's not true, Harry." Hermione came to his side, urgently putting her hand on his arm. "Your parents hoped and wished for a baby. There's only one way to create a soul like yours, and that's with love. They wanted you desperately, and they wanted to give you the best chance at life that they could. Even when they discovered they were targeted by Voldemort himself, knowing they might not get to see you grow up, they wanted to give you a chance at life, and a way to be with you in spirit."
Harry looked away, sighing. In the end, it really didn't matter how or why he came to be. He just was. He ran his hand over his face tiredly. "What did Mum's potion and spell do, exactly?"
"The potion…" Hermione flipped through a few more pages, skimming the notes. "She worked on that with Professor Dumbledore's brother, Aberforth. Its purpose is to loosen the soul from the body. It is a painful process, similar to a dementor's kiss. The charm then bound her soul to you. She verbally offered her life for yours, which sealed the charm. Voldemort's Killing Curse separated her soul from her body, so when he used the same curse on you, it did not separate your soul from your body, but hers. Her soul took the form of a vengeful mother, rebounding with Voldemort's curse, fighting the way she wanted to fight for you, to destroy Voldemort. That protection is still in your skin."
Hermione hesitated then. "I think it's the same potion that Dumbledore drank in the cave to get the fake Horcrux. He had to drink much more than your mother did, however. The pain must have been excruciating. Voldemort would have enjoyed the irony that someone would have to painfully lose their soul to get to his. When Dumbledore drank it and it reminded you of the things your mum said, Harry, he was anchoring his soul elsewhere. If he hadn't, he would have been left soulless, like the victim of a dementor."
Harry rubbed his temples before running his hands agitatedly through his hair. "Dumbledore tied his soul to me, too?" he asked finally.
"Possibly, though I don't think so," Hermione said. "I'm not sure, of course, but I think it's more likely he bound his soul to Hogwarts, or possibly Fawkes. He may have set Fawkes with the task to protect you. I think he would've chosen Fawkes, because on the phoenix's next burning day, Dumbledore's soul would be released to go on its way."
"Isn't it blood protection?" Harry asked. "That's why I had to live with Aunt Petunia. Wouldn't Dumbledore have had to anchor to his brother?"
"I suppose that's a possibility as well," Hermione acknowledged. "The blood bond is the strongest for parent to child, as in your case, but Dumbledore had other bonds. I thought of Hogwarts or Fawkes first, but you're right, he may have chosen Aberforth."
"Speaking of Abeforth, why would Harry's mum work with him on that potion?" Ginny asked.
Hermione shrugged, "Probably because Aberforth is as talented with Potions as Professor Dumbledore was with Transfiguration.
"Crookshanks gave me an interesting idea though," she stroked behind her earlobe thoughtfully. "There was a mythological god called Dionysus or Bacchus. He was the mysterious god of wine, and friend to satyrs--creatures that were half goat, half man. He was rumoured to be able to turn into a lion; a lord of cats.
"Aberforth is a mysterious barman who was accused of using improper charms on goats. Very probably a Gryffindor as well, tying in with the lion connection.
"Dionysus was also said to preside over communication between the living and dead, and one myth says he created a special drink that could bind the drinker's soul to another person or thing."
Harry interrupted, "Like a Horcrux?"
"Not exactly," Hermione's brow furrowed. "Your mum's notes indicate the original potion was a more ancient magic, and would only work on a whole soul. The person has to be willing to die for someone else; to give up their soul for another--or others--in order to use the anchoring charm that goes with it."
In the hollow silence that followed, Luna suddenly cut in with her usual whimsical tone. "So there was nothing in those notes regarding the Snigglefritz or Mangel-wurzel then?"
Throughout the month of April, the group worked harder than ever. Ron had expected Hermione to be out of shape and need practice, but her months as a cat had given her an edge. She now moved with more grace and stealth than before, and her muscles were sinewy. "Probably all the extra running and jumping from the effects of catnip." She raised a brow as she offered him a hand up off the floor.
He shrugged, grinning and unrepentant. "All in your best interests, love."
Her parents had, of course, been thrilled to have her in human form once again. They'd had faith in her abilities and were used to her being at school for months on end. Whether she was in cat or human form was almost irrelevant, so strong was their belief that she'd be alright in the end. They'd known the engagement was forthcoming as well, since Ron had spoken with them at Christmas. They'd given their blessing, and Hermione's mother was already immersed in wedding details with Mrs. Weasley, who had turned her gaze speculatively at Harry and Ginny.
Hedwig snagged a bat mid-flight during her hunt. Although Harry had warned her against hunting them, his red-headed friend had initially told her to bring them to McGonagall, and this one had been flying entirely too close to her sleeping boy's window. She winged her way through the castle, dropping the little furry body on the Headmistress' desk before flying off to find a more palatable meal. She entirely missed the scene a few hours later, when the usually unflappable McGonagall turned a shade as pale as the snowy owl's plumage when she unwound the note from the dead creature's leg.
"Beltane." The note dropped from McGonagall's nerveless fingers. She sat heavily at her desk, head in her hands. She had mere days to evacuate her school and prepare for battle. "May Day..." she thought of the date with dread. "Mayday, indeed..." Glancing up at Dumbledore's sleeping portrait, she straightened resolutely. Potter and the Order had to be notified. Plans must be made.
After sending Patronus messages to call an emergency meeting of the Order, McGonagall's glance fell on the note again, this time setting her resolve. Beltane--unlike Samhain, which commemorated the death of summer--celebrated the coming of the light.
"Something doesn't feel right," Ron said uneasily, wand at the ready, scanning the dark, empty lobby of the Ministry. The boys had slipped away from the school to retrieve Lily's potion.
Harry stared hard at the ridiculous statue. "Fountain of Magical Brethren," he scoffed. "It was better when Dumbledore tore it to pieces. Someday, someone should fix that..."
They retraced the path they'd taken two years prior, stealthily entering the circular room where the doors began to spin. Harry whispered "All you need is love," watching as the spinning halted and a door began to glow.
"Great, now I'll have that song stuck in my head all night," Ron groused as Harry tapped the knob with his wand to open it.
"It was Mum's favorite Beatles song," Harry shrugged. "I can't help it she used it as a password."
The dim room was eerily empty, except for a single, illuminated table holding racks of phials filled with potions. Harry gently took one filled with silvery liquid, holding it carefully in his palm.
"What are those?" Ron asked, reaching for one of the phials. He jerked his hand back as a magical current zinged through him.
"Sorry," Harry glanced at Ron. "Mum's potion. It's the unicorn blood in it. Freely given, of course."
"How come it didn't shock you?" Ron frowned.
"Well, you know how unicorns are," Harry smirked. "You just failed the unicorn innocence and purity test."
"The brother brigade will be glad to know you passed," Ron retorted.
Harry raised an amused brow. "Haven't you heard? The ever-increasing Weasley Sister Society has taken offense to the brigade's aims and is forcing them to disband."
Ron huffed haughtily. "How are they going to do that?"
"I believe it was more a question of what they are not going to do..." Harry grinned meaningfully.
Ron cleared his throat and nodded. "Right. Disbanding."
Harry turned back to his phial with a chuckle, silently casting an Unbreakable Charm on the glass.
Ron looked around edgily. "It's too quiet here. Feels like something is about to go badly wrong." He glanced at his watch and his eyes widened with horror. "Harry, the girls are on battle mode!"
They both felt a sudden jerk behind their navels as they were summoned back to Hogwarts. They heard the echo of clanging bells as the Portkeys triggered alarms behind them and they disappeared from the Ministry.
A Disillusioned Percy Weasley tapped the alarm with his wand to silence it, worriedly frowning at the space so recently vacated by his youngest brother. Adjusting his robes, he Apparated to Hogsmeade, hoping he wasn't too late.
Ginny and Hermione were behind a table tipped on its side in the Great Hall when the boys materialized next to them. D.A. volunteers had been strategically stationed all over the school, as they'd been unsure of the Death Eaters' point of entry. They needn't have been concerned about secret passageways, as it turned out. The Death Eaters had simply marched through the front gates; the wards of Hogwarts allowing them entrance. As the masked figures attempted to storm the school, they found themselves facing a far more determined and well-trained force than they had anticipated. Members of the D.A. formed flanks that herded Death Eaters steadily toward the Great Hall. The castle was a willing participant, twisting all of its stairways and secret passageways to assist in the effort.
"What the hell?" One young Death Eater screamed in fear and frustration as he lost his wand to a sixth year Ravenclaw. "I thought it was supposed to be deserted and ready for takeover!"
Dark, roiling clouds filled the enchanted ceiling of the Great Hall. The snarls and snaps of thunder filled the thick, heavy atmosphere like a caged wolf.
The girls aimed hexes over the edge of a table while the boys scrambled to get into position. "Perfect timing," Ron said caustically, trying to scrunch his lanky body behind the magically reinforced physical shield. "When did they get here?"
"Right after you left," said Hermione shortly. "We gave you as much time as we could. The D.A. has been following your battle plans exactly, Ron, herding most of the Death Eaters here in the Great Hall. No sign of Voldemort yet, Harry."
"Ah, that's why the Ministry was deserted," said Ron. "The guards and Aurors are probably trying to get here. They were on alert for McGonagall's signal, but if they didn't get here fast enough, the castle sealed the gates. We know how fast the Ministry moves." He snorted disgustedly. "Bet they're all sitting in Hogsmeade filling out paperwork."
"Expelliarmus!" Bellatrix screeched. Neville stumbled back as his wand arced through the air.
"Diffindo!" he cried, holding his empty hand out towards her, using the wand in his arm to slice her outstretched hand. "Accio wand!" He recaptured his wand mid-air and in a swishing downward motion, snarled "Silencio!"
Bellatrix shot him a murderous glare and managed a weak, silent Crucio, which he easily dodged.
His nonverbal Levicorpus had him grinning in triumph as she dangled upside down, causing observers to cringe at the sight of her black thong.
"Looks like you've got her under control, mate," Ron yelled, running to duck behind another table, Hermione at his heels. "Here's a roll of the twins' tape when you're ready to prep her for a little trip to Azkaban."
"Expelliarmus!" Neville casually caught her wand, shoving it in his pocket as he summoned a roll of tape from Ron. "Stupefy," he said for good measure and let her drop unceremoniously to the floor. "Petrificus Totalus. Incarcerus." He smiled grimly and took a bit of vindictive pleasure in securing her with the magically binding tape.
Ginny and Harry moved out from behind the table, facing three approaching Death Eaters. They worked seamlessly together, their movements as practiced and smooth as a dance.
The Death Eaters were all wearing robes and masks, so it was impossible to guess who they were battling. Harry thought he heard Lucius Malfoy's voice in Ron and Hermione's vicinity, but did not dare spare a glance until Ginny was binding the wrists and ankles of the three Death Eaters they'd taken down. He moved a few meters closer to get in position to help when he heard Ginny cry out in pain.
He spun on his heel, fearing the worst when he saw Ginny's prostrate form. "Expelliarmus!" he cried, snatching the wand that flew towards him. "Oh Merlin, no, please no!" He dashed the few steps to her side with his heart in his throat. One of the Death Eaters had not been entirely unconscious and apparently had a hidden wand. "Stupefy!" Harry snarled, ignoring the sick thud of the man's head as it impacted the hard floor.
The Death Eater had hit Ginny with a bludgeoning hex when she secured his ankles with tape. She must have thrown her arm up to ward off the hex, because it hit her watch before throwing her backwards. Relieved that she wasn't badly injured, Harry turned to the Death Eater who had unwisely hexed her before freeing his still-bound ankles. "Vis vires transfero!" Harry growled, transferring the Death Eater's magical powers into the long, narrow device he had pulled from an inside pocket. It was now charged and ready. He pocketed the tube again and reached down to activate Ginny's methadone injector.
"Potter." Harry jerked his head up, hearing a voice he could never fail to recognize.
"You stream of bat's piss!" Harry snarled. "Stupify!" He used the curse nonverbally and wandlessly. His former professor, who had not even raised his wand in defense, crumpled to the ground.
Harry did not have time to bind Snape before he felt his scar throb. He whirled, heart pounding at the sight of Voldemort Disillusioning himself on the far side of the Great Hall. He could see Hermione and Ron nearby, fighting back to back, fiercely dueling a pair of Death Eaters. Harry sent nasty disabling hexes to assist. He stood over Ginny protectively as his friends rushed to his side. "Take her," he ordered, "She won't go otherwise." His eyes were fixed on the skeletal form looming nearer. "Please, I can't let him have her, take her somewhere safe."
Hermione and Ron shared a look. At Ron's nod, Hermione knelt at Ginny's side. "Rennervate," she said softly.
"No!" Harry cried desperately, "GO! All of you, please, just GO!" His eyes were fixed on Voldemort, who had paused his unhurried approach to Rennervate a few of his loyal servants. He did not lower himself to engage in battle or waste energy firing hexes, merely continued towards Harry; a hunter stalking his quarry.
Neville stood up, wand ready. After taking Bellatrix down, he had joined Luna, Charlie and Hannah, battling other Death Eaters. They all looked worse for the wear, but the trail of bound, cloaked wizards behind them bespoke successful teamwork. "We're ready, Harry," he said grimly. "We'll keep the dome powered. You do what you need to do."
Harry stared around the huge room with a sense of surreal detachment. Dobby and Winky were popping swiftly here and there, directing other elves and flinging swift elf magic wherever they could assist. Harry heard the swift clip-clop of hooves and twang of arrows as Firenze cantered somewhere in the Hall. Red flashes blazed where McGonagall and Flitwick were defending the school from behind the Head table. Hagrid was turning Death Eaters into pigs near the Slytherin end.
Other Order members had emerged through the cabinet and charged into the Great Hall, pairing up to take on the trapped Death Eaters. Fleur's enraged screech echoed as she flattened a robed figure who dared aim a wand at her precious Bill.
Kingsley and Mr. Weasley worked the perimeter with the D.A., picking off the Death Eaters like ducks in a pond.
Fred and George had expanded their arsenal to include Dark Mark-seeking mouth darts and were altogether too gleeful in their pursuit from their broomstick vantage points. They had even enlisted Peeves's assistance, and the three swooped and blasted darts with whoops of delight.
Lupin whipped a Densuego hex at Greyback, who yelped and scrambled for an exit. Tonks flew on her broom, leading an organized aerial advance, hurling curses like lightning from above. They had undoubtedly done their share of damage within enemy ranks.
The battle was well in hand. Harry's moment had arrived.
Ron and Hermione stood with Ginny while she quickly removed her watch and flexed her wrist. Harry caught her gaze, his own filled with despair and silent apologies before squaring his shoulders and turning away from her to face his nemesis. He took a deep steadying breath and stepped up to meet his adversary. He nonverbally threw the huge, hazy dome around himself and Voldemort. "Just you and me now,' he muttered, not realizing Ginny had moved up behind him.
"Potter," Voldemort spat. "How nice of you to bring your little tramp. I'm in a generous mood, so I will allow you to watch while I kill her first. Then I will tear down your pathetic excuse of a trap and make you watch while I tear every one of your precious Order members limb from limb."
Harry's heart sank as he realized Ginny was behind him. Still, he refused to take his eyes off Voldemort. Accepting the inevitable, he slipped the phial of his mother's potion from his pocket. He held it out to Ginny behind his back without looking at her. "Lock and load," he said quietly, feeling her trembling fingers take the potion from his hand.
"Courage is being afraid, but doing the right thing anyway," she whispered as she stepped up to take her place beside him.
Harry shielded her wandlessly with his left hand, trading curses with the wand in his right and keeping up a constant stream of insults. She pulled an arrow from her quiver, loading the hollow tip with potion. She slid the arrow back in the quiver and drew her wand.
Ginny nudged Harry, signaling her readiness. He dropped his shield and she cast her strongest Reducto curse. She and Harry worked together, throwing hexes and conjuring shields. Ginny tried to hurl curses faster to keep Voldemort on the defensive and give Harry time to prepare himself. Suddenly, Ginny swore and rolled to the floor as one of Voldemort's Crucio curses broke her shield. The methadone coursing through her system kept the pain manageable, and Voldemort snarled when she refused to scream. He reapplied the curse angrily, giving Harry an opportunity. "Contrissssssto," Harry whispered, sending the nondescript gray spell snaking along the floor, where it connected with Voldemort's foot, escaping his notice.
Harry quickly conjured a stone shield to interrupt the curse on Ginny, immediately followed by a Protego to protect them both from the explosion of flying rubble. Ginny recovered from the Cruciatus curse and unslung a silver bow from her shoulder, holding it in her left hand while they ducked the hail of shrapnel. She resumed casting Diffindo, Reducto, Langlock, Petrificus Totalus, and anything else she could think of, even Scourgify to keep Voldemort shielding rather than cursing, trying to buy Harry time.
Harry ducked behind another conjured stone shield to concentrate on building up magical energy while Ginny held Voldemort's attention for a few precious moments.
Voldemort taunted Ginny, toying with her like a cat with a mouse, and she played along, switching from offensive to defensive, distracting him from what Harry was doing, ducking and dodging; flinging curses as often as she could.
"I grow weary of this game, worthless blood traitor!" Voldemort hissed after his cutting hex failed to break through her defenses. "Avada Kedavra!"
"No!" Harry screamed, leaping to his feet to fling a shield in front of her. The panic and adrenalin flooding through him contributed to his broadcast of a vision so intense it immobilized the last of the Death Eaters nearby. In a blaze of shocking white light, the image of Albus Dumbledore filled their minds, accompanied by ringing phoenix song, and indeed, Fawkes appeared above the dome. In the split second Voldemort faltered, Ginny stood up behind the stone shield that had taken the weak killing curse, deftly drawing the arrow in the bow.
Harry uttered the only incantation he could use to end Voldemort's reign of terror. "Adhadda Kedhabhra!" he said, his voice steady.
Ginny's arrow struck at the same instant and protruded from Voldemort's chest. Harry's ancient spell, originally designed for exorcism and healing, reacted with the potion. With the whooshing sound of a hearth fire being lit, Voldemort's body was enveloped in shimmering white light. His face froze in an expression of horrified confusion; mouth forming a silent scream.
Voldemort's impure, tarnished fragment of a soul was painstakingly extracted from the body he'd created with mismatched parts. Harry's blood swirled into a white mist which rose and drifted through the ceiling of the domed shield. The old Muggle bones crumbled into dusty powder and disappeared through the floor. Flesh hissed as it melted, congealing into a puddle. Ginny hastily reached to retrieve the long white tube from Harry. She opened the soul catcher Hermione had designed and chanted the summoning spell to trap the soul inside. The floating red phantasm fought, but she determinedly recast the spell over and over, drawing it gradually closer. Harry placed his hand over hers and chanted with her. Finally the tube made contact and sucked the specter inside, causing it to glow brilliantly white for a split second. Ginny wasted no time replacing the cedar plug and casting several sealing and Unbreakable Charms. Harry added more in Parseltongue. Before dispelling the dome shield, he Accioed Voldemort's wand from the floor where it had fallen and tucked it in his pocket.
"Harry!" Ginny threw her arms around him. "Oh Harry, we did it! He's gone!" He held her close for a moment, nearly sinking to the floor in the tide of exhausted relief that washed over him.
"It's not over," he said tiredly. "There's still work to do. This time, none of his servants can be left to resurrect him. We need to get them now, before they get away. And there's still at least one Horcrux out there, but that isn't as urgent as rounding up the Death Eaters. The castle will help us, just like Ron and McGonagall planned."
His brow furrowed as he surveyed the Great Hall, scanning each of the unmasked Death Eater's faces. Prickly dread and suspicion crept up his spine, causing the hair on the back of his neck to rise. "Where's Lupin? I need to find him. Ginny, please stay here with Ron and Hermione. We need to account for as many Death Eaters as possible." He hastily handed Hermione the carved wooden receptacle of Voldemort's soul and set off for the double doors.
Harry found Lupin in the hallway, crouched near the still, bound form of Fenrir Greyback. Tonks was tending some rather deep cuts on Lupin's arm and chest.
"Harry! Is it over? Are you okay?" Tonks asked swiftly, searchingly.
"Well, Voldemort's been sucked into a soul catcher, but I still have a very bad feeling," Harry said ominously. "I'm afraid we're missing a few Death Eaters." He turned back to Lupin. "Are you alright, Professor? Where are the Aurors?"
"Hogwarts was sealed," Lupin answered. "No one could get in or out except through the cabinet. That should change now, though. I'm sure they'll be here any moment. They'll be upset at missing the action, but they can do the dirty work and haul the prisoners to Azkaban."
"Brilliant flying," Harry grinned at Tonks.
"Thank you," Tonks flushed as pink as her hair. "Remus didn't want me near the battle, but I insisted on helping, so we found a way to compromise. I'm less clumsy in the air, and I'm wearing so much shield armor I think I could deflect a killing curse."
Harry nodded at first, but then fixed her with a narrow-eyed stare. "You're an Auror, why would you agree to stay out of the battle?"
Tonks' eyes widened and she glanced to Lupin for help. He just smiled a bit smugly and shrugged.
"Oh fine," she huffed. "Not like we'd be able to keep it a secret long anyway. I'm officially on leave as an Auror." She scowled at Harry's raised brows, then rolled her eyes with a huff. "Yes, you're finally going to get that little cousin you've always wanted. Let that be a lesson to you. Never use another wizard's wand for important spells."
"You owe me two galleons," Lupin chuckled.
Tonks snorted. "Hermione probably had it figured out as soon as she saw me."
"Yes, but Harry voiced his suspicions first," Lupin shrugged.
Harry shook his head at Lupin in disbelief. "You bet that I would notice something like this before Hermione?"
Lupin raised his eyebrows and shrugged. "And you did."
Harry just shook his head. "Congratulations. Really, that's fantastic." He patted them awkwardly on their shoulders and continued his search.
Ron and Neville were immobilizing the few remaining Death Eaters, managing without much difficulty. They levitated the bound wizards, lining them up against a wall. Then they began using Hermione's Vis vires transfero spell to systematically drain the Death Eaters' powers into magical batteries. "What are they going to use all these batteries for, anyway?" Neville asked.
"Hermione designed new wards for Azkaban," Ron smiled darkly. "These will help keep the prisoners contained now that the dementors are gone."
"What happens if someone is innocent, like Sirius?" Neville asked, handing Ron another battery.
"Well, that's the beauty of the Vis vires spell," Ron shrugged. "It won't work if the bond between the magical core and soul is pure. Every time someone successfully uses a dark curse to hurt or kill someone, it damages the magic/soul bond. It doesn't weaken a wizard's power, just the bond, so it makes it easier to separate it from his soul and drain the magical core. Acts of retribution would have tied their magic back to their souls, but I imagine with this lot, we won't see much of that."
"Didn't Harry use this power draining spell on Tonks?" Neville thought back to the training skirmish when Tonks had pretended to be Bellatrix.
"No," Ron shook his head. "He'd used the Contristo spell to sap her energy, and then a plain Transfero spell to drain it into a rock. That was just her magical energy, not actual power. Tonks' energy would've come back eventually even if he hadn't transferred it back, but these bastards are now squibs," he grinned maliciously. "Harry didn't want any room for error after that battle with Tonks. He was afraid of hurting innocent people again. So Hermione created this version. If someone is under the Imperius it won't drain their powers either. They performed curses against their will, so it didn't affect the bond."
Hannah and Luna had finished binding Death Eaters with anti-magic gaffer tape and began levitating them over to the wall with the rest. Their group had been outnumbered yet managed to prevail, though not entirely unscathed. Thankfully, none of the injuries were serious. Ginny's wrist might have been sprained, but the methadone kept the pain under control. Lupin was limping, and most of the others sported various cuts and bruises. Charlie joined his mother and Madam Pomfrey tending the injured. He'd become quite proficient with healing spells during his time tending dragons.
Truly, the Death Eaters had been overconfident and underpracticed. For a group of young adults who had spent most of the past year in rigorous training and preparation, it had not been much of a contest. Most of them had second wands fused in their forearms, giving them a distinct advantage.
Fred and George's inventions, the Order, and even some departments from the Ministry had been cutting Voldemort's supporters down for nearly a year. Mr. and Mrs. Granger's ideas had largely eliminated the dementors and giants. Vampires had never been interested in joining Voldemort, as he had nothing to offer them and nothing to hold over them. The werewolves, once they realized they had other options, mostly left his service, taking their families to go into hiding.
Harry paced uneasily. If your attack is going really well, it's an ambush, he remembered Moody's sage advice. Still, there was nothing, no sign of any other activity. He began to scout the perimeter, ducking down another hallway, losing sight of the others. "What happened to Snape after I stunned him? Did he get away? What about Malfoy? And that dratted snake?"
He caught a flash out of the corner of his eyes and reflexively threw out a shield. It was easily pushed aside and Harry found himself in a body bind curse, but had the ability to move from the neck up.
"You like it? My own special variation, you see. It leaves the victim with the ability to scream," said the familiar voice behind the hood. "For you, I may need to make an exception."
Harry kept silent, his brain working furiously.
"You know what kind of power there is in anonymity, Potter?" the Death Eater sneered. "No, of course not. You never have. You are the bloody Boy Who Lived, after all. Let me enlighten you. When you spend your life in the shadows, you learn a lot of things that can easily be turned to your advantage. The proper show of obedience makes a person overlooked and underestimated. The impression of servitude is all too easily done," he boasted lazily. "People are easily fooled. Especially fools who believe there's good in everyone, like Dumbledore and your mother."
Harry glared, "You were in Godric's Hollow the night Voldemort killed my parents."
"Oh, good show, boy," was the caustic reply. "Just deduced that now?" The voice turned oily. "Have you also discovered the reason the Dark Lord would have let your mother live?" He knelt down and taunted Harry. "Oh yes, she would have made an amusing plaything for my enjoyment. Unfortunately, she refused to comply with simple logic, so…" he shrugged carelessly.
"I'll kill you," Harry snarled.
"You cannot kill me," the wizard scoffed. "I am immortal. I have spent enough time in the shadows. I have grown tired of other, less-capable wizards taking credit for my efforts. The time has come for true greatness to be recognized. I suppose I must thank you for disposing of that foppish fool styling himself as the Dark Lord. He had outlived his usefulness. His name and reputation were all I needed for a time. Now, I will prove my supremacy."
"What did you mean, immortal?" Harry interrupted.
"You are dense, boy!" was the scathing reply. "Immortal means I am a god. I cannot die!"
"I know what it means," Harry said quietly. "But didn't Voldemort believe he was immortal as well?"
"Ah, back to him again, when I want to talk about myself," the irritable Death Eater shook his head. "Voldemort became short-sighted and stupid. He made too many Horcruxes, the greedy bastard. It weakened him. And then to insist on using your blood, which was essentially poison, only strengthened the bond he shared with you. Nearly drove him to the brink of insanity. He was downing potions by the cauldronful the past few months, trying to rid himself of the headaches and visions with which you were constantly bombarding him. If you hadn't finished him tonight, he would have overdosed on strengthening solution or dreamless sleep potion eventually. And he used the bone from his father, his Muggle father? No hidden power source, that. Finally, the flesh of the loyal servant, well, that's just laughable, isn't it?" he snorted derisively.
"So, you had a secret thing for my mum all along?" Harry asked, jaw clenched in disgust.
"Oh, she could have provided some entertainment. It would have been more rewarding had your father been alive to watch. He was such a smug, arrogant bastard. He had everything. I would have enjoyed rubbing his face in the fact that I took it all away."
"Voldemort took it away," Harry said bitterly. "Not you."
Losing patience, the man screamed, "NO, it was MY plan, MY doing! Voldemort disappeared for over a dozen years! Even his resurrection was part of my plot! It was carefully planned and orchestrated. Voldemort was nothing without me. And you have just proven his ineffectuality yet again," he sniffed coldly, collecting himself. "Twice he has been defeated by a mere child."
"What did you know of his Horcruxes?" Harry asked apruptly, keeping him talking.
"I know they don't matter if no one helps the fool resurrect himself again," he said loftily. "And knowing your penchant for saving the world, you have probably disposed of most of them already, which left him hanging by the merest of threads."
"We weren't sure how many he ended up creating," Harry said. "We destroyed four."
"You did not find the cup, I'm sure. He sent that one back in time to Salazar Slytherin in the belly of a snake. It caused the contention between the founders when it took possession of Slytherin, which was why he was driven from the castle. You did your duty then, destroying the rest. His aspiration was to split his soul in seven pieces. He succeeded creating the first five Horcruxes. You were to be his sixth and final Horcrux."
"What do you mean, I was to be his final Horcrux?" Harry frowned, "He meant to create his last one with my death."
"Alas, no, that was one idea he had that did have merit," the warlock mused. "He wanted to split his soul by killing you, and then do the switching spell to anchor his soul piece in your empty shell of a body. Had he succeeded, he would have rebirthed himself, essentially. As it was, your own stubborn soul refused to budge. Your mother had seen to that. However, you had been prepared as a Horcrux vessel. When he performed the killing curse and it backfired, leaving him in vapor form, he attempted to take possession of your body by removing your soul from the inside. That may have worked, but by then, his small bit of remaining soul was no match for your mother's ancient magic or your own soul. All he left behind were some of the innate talents he himself was born with."
"Is that what you did to become immortal?" Harry asked, sickened.
"Ah, wondering which of your little friends you would have to kill to rid the world of the next evil menace? Thinking about which schoolmate possesses only half a soul?" he taunted nastily. "Do you think I would have been stupid enough to make it that obvious?" The wizard had removed his mask and stared at Harry spitefully. "You'll be dead soon. I suppose it won't matter if I tell you. As you realize, I am rather skilled with mental magic. Combined with judicious use of memory charms, I have the ability to make people believe things that never happened. Or forget things that have happened.
"Now you see, this is where I perfected Voldemort's plan. I knew as much of the prophesy as he did, but I disagreed with his choice and his method. I thought a pureblood child would be more suitable. A pureblood would never be subject to the same prejudices as a half-blood. And rather than replace his entire soul with a fragment of my own, I split his as well and bound it to mine. I took some of his innocence, purity and the protection of his mother's love. I bound half of my soul to his, and Obliviated him. Obviously, my adult soul would have been out of place in an infant. My flawless plan could not have worked better. He is truly, and dangerously, underestimated and has been all of his life. He has a faulty memory and bumbling disposition. No one would ever suspect. And neither of us can die, because we are bound to each other. If either of us is killed, the souls will find their other halves and re-merge. I could easily reverse the memory charm from within his body if I am killed in this body. If he is killed first, I would merely unbind his soul from mine and repeat the process with some other child."
"How could you split a child's soul?" Harry was disgusted.
"Very easily," was the scathing response. "Imperius curse and a nearby grandfather."
Harry had been struggling against the body bind curse until he finally focused enough for his nonverbal countercurse to work. He remained still, not wanting to alert his captor.
A sudden scrabbling noise beyond the door caused the evil wizard to glance away. As the door swung slowly open, a large, ginger cat wandered in. "Prrrrrowwl?"
"Crookshanks, go back, get out of here," Harry whispered urgently, wishing he spoke cat instead of snake.
"Ah, the mudblood's cat," the dark wizard said distastefully. "I hate that damned ugly beast."
Crookshanks turned his squashed face to the wizard and hissed. The Death Eater shot a vicious cutting hex at the cat, but Crookshanks's reflexes were faster. He scrambled up the Death Eater's robes; slashing, clawing and biting as only a half kneazle on a mission could. A wand clattered to the floor.
"Evanesco," Harry whispered, banishing the evil wizard's wand where it had fallen. "Crookshanks, you deserve an Order of Merlin for this," he muttered fervently, "but I can't let that bastard hurt you or Hermione will have my hide. Mobilicattus!" He deftly lifted Crookshanks away from the scuffle and set him gently on the floor near the door. "GO!" he shouted, but Crookshanks gave him the same look of defiance and determination Hermione often did and stalked right back into the room, crouching low, his bottle-brush tail flicking back and forth.
Harry was afraid to hit the Death Eater with a curse that could potentially separate his soul from his body. He guessed the child the bastard had committed such atrocities against was Neville. Harry knew Neville could see thestrals because he'd seen his grandfather die, but he'd had never asked for details. Harry was sickened to think part of the torture the Longbottoms had suffered was witnessing the soul mutilation of their toddler son by this sick, twisted bastard. Neville had endured enough. Harry refused to subject him a fight for his very soul.
"Obliviate!" Harry threw the spell, knowing his inexperience with it would probably render the wizard as mentally deficient as Lockhart.
The spell struck the Death Eater mid-transformation, just as Crookshanks pounced.
"NO! Crookshanks!" Harry tore down the hallway, into the Great Hall after the cat and the squirming, beady-eyed creature clamped tightly in his jaws.
"Herpestidae edwardsii!" Harry's trainers screeched to a stop when he heard Hermione scream the jinx and turned to see it hit Malfoy, who had been backed into a corner by Nagini.
"Hermione! Where's Crookshanks?" he panted, pausing to watch the effects of her jinx in morbid fascination. "Moody teach you that one?"
"No," her eyes glittered as she watched the struggle. "Rudyard Kipling. What do you want with Crookshanks?"
Harry hurriedly explained the urgent need to catch Hermione's cat as Ron and Ginny loped up.
"Oh Harry, just Accio him!"
"No! What if he drops the dark wannabe?"
"Can't you just Accio the bastard then?" Ron asked.
"D'you think there'd be much left of him after being dragged through a cat's jaws and claws?" Harry asked. "Hurry, we've got to find them."
"So you said you Obliviated him before he transformed?" Hermione queried, prizing the stunned creature from her cat's jaws of death.
"Yeah, but I don't know how successful I was," Harry said doubtfully. "I've never used that spell before."
"And he has half of Neville's soul in him…" she shook her head. "I don't know how we'll extract that."
"Maybe we should do a complete mind-wipe on him and just let Neville keep him for a pet," Ron suggested.
"If we make the Animagus change permanent, that might work," Ginny pondered. "For now, let's just put him in an unbreakable jar like you did with Rita Skeeter."
After watching Hermione carefully set the large conjured jar next to the soulcatcher, Harry turned to observe Malfoy and Nagini behind them. "So, Kipling, you said? I thought he wrote Jungle Book." He snickered, thinking he ought to suggest Mowgli as a name to Tonks and Lupin.
"He also wrote Rikki Tikki Tavi," Hermione said rather smugly. "The little mongoose who killed two oddly named cobras – Nag and Nagaina. I thought a little transfiguration reenaction would be a bit of poetic justice."
"That's the most foul, cruel, and bad-tempered rodent you ever set eyes on! And yet… Malfoy the Mongoose," Ron tilted his head thoughtfully. "It does have a certain ring to it, doesn't it? Not quite the same as Malfoy the Amazing Bouncing Ferret, or Malferret, or…"
"Right, we get the idea Ronald, thank you," Hermione rolled her eyes.
"Are you going to turn him back in exchange for killing the snake?" Ginny asked idly.
"Oh, I suppose," Hermione sighed a bit regretfully. "Though I may have a better idea…" her eyes narrowed and she grinned conspiratorially at Ginny. "Remember that hypnotist we watched on the telly once? Every time the guy heard someone sneeze, he'd cluck like a chicken? I believe Malfoy should turn into a mongoose whenever someone, including himself, says Mudblood."
Ginny giggled and watched her friend perform a tricky little spell before changing Malfoy back.
"And what will he have to do to turn back?" she asked.
"Kiss his own arse as a reminder that his fecal matter has an odor," Hermione's glare was hard as steel.
"Well, you aren't as good a pet as Trevor," said Neville thoughtfully, staring through the glass into a pair of beady black eyes. "But I guess you'll have to do until we can figure out how to get my soul back, and turn yours into plant fertilizer. Dragon dung is the best kind." Hannah gave him an encouraging smile and took his hand, heading for the library, leaving Scabbers the silver-pawed rat to spin on his exercise wheel.
"This finally explains why I could read Harry's book," Neville thought, smiling back at his sweet blonde girlfriend.
Harry wandered into the DADA classroom after completing his NEWTs. A man in flowing black robes was seated behind the desk.
"Hi," Harry said quietly as he approached. "I just wanted to thank you for trying to protect my mum, and then me, over the years. I've read her diary, and I know you were friends. I should have accepted Dumbledore's faith in you a long time ago. And thanks for grabbing the watches, necklace and my mum's ring from Pettigrew. I know you put that box in my vault. You left that note in your old potions book about Pettigrew being a petty thief, too. Took me awhile, but I figured out the connection.
"Pettigrew said you were giving Voldemort a lot of potions. Hermione is guessing you added arsenic or strychnine – some Muggle poison he couldn't detect with magic. She also remembered that you helped her when Voldemort kidnapped her. The note to McGonagall came from you as well, didn't it? You've taken a lot of risks."
Professor Snape met his gaze, but said nothing.
"I reckon that one-year-Defense professorship curse has been broken," Harry smiled. "But if you ever need someone to fill in, send me an owl. And sir, when I say that you are like a stream of bat's piss, I only mean that you shine out like a shaft of gold when all around it is dark." He was rewarded by a very slight upward quirk of a dark brow.
Harry paused on his way out the door. "Oh, and watch out for that quill Umbitch left in the desk. It'll leave a scar."
A/N: The bat's piss quote is from Monty Python. I know it doesn't really make a lot of sense, but it makes me laugh, so I included it. ;) There are a couple others in this chapter too, so if you are looking at something Fleur or Ron said about elderberries or rodents... they've spent some time in front of the telly is all. ;)
I'm considering a sequel, so if there are questions or loose ends you've found you'd like answered, please let me know in a review or PM so I can start compiling ideas for another segment.
I just noticed yesterday that I started posting this on the Ides of March, and finished it on JKR/Harry's bday. Completely unintentionally. Cool coincidence, I think!
Thanks for reading!
Thanks again to my AWESOME reviewers - many of whom offered great ideas, questions, suggestions and Monty Python quotes throughout the story! I really couldn't have done it without you. You are the best of the best, and definitely have earned the rank you deserve as the top 12 percent of Fanfiction dot net readers.
Aegnor Alkarin alix33 Allanon-One Alphamech alvin's gf Andy angelkat2502 Angie anime-school-chick AnIrishLily Anneke15 azkaban's finest Balleraphon BeckiSoup Bellatrix06 Beth5572 Bian Northwind Black-Spaz-Lover blahblah123 BlueSea14 brona Butterfle ceo55 chorltonni1 Chrissy Clhdadam coley Cyler Fharzhide Dallas Danfankendra Daniel Freakz darkangelNYC Deathzealot Dizi 85 Dramaqueen07 DTS EllejayteeEmily Elizabeth ErendisJ Este Feenix FiFi Freja Lercke-Falkenborg Frodo Freak2 FrostyAKFGall-4185Gashlyn ginny278 gonekrazy3000 HakushoRurouni HaliJade Snape harry-an-ginny Harryluver101 hermionegranger58920 hittocerbattosai HP18 hpfan35 Hue InkandPaper Invaderk jackie Jaina Sanri jayley kensai2 Kerichi KingofShippers kriti krumfan lanna La Phantom Last Samurai Ryu-san xlbfan xlily 101 lindsey Little Miss Sci-Fi luvinfanfic Mystical Magical Me magiquill9 Mara727 maxamillions Miralliamjc Morning Rose Myrr nihilus1 Nutty Al Paris-Hilton-is-a-loser perrinette PhonixOwner Randall Flagg raoulisafop raveninthewind RedDevil15 rhoffmanjr Schnuff Secret world sezza Shwenny the Emerald Faerie Sissyspacedout SkyQuill SleepyHead22 sneering tapeplayer SPRITEfaerie015 Star-Eva01 The Fallen Angel666 The Gypsy-Pirate Queen The Inebriated Lion-Minion ThePollen tomboywitch UsagiMoon vt Wolf's scream writerchick13 XForestxAngelX Zelotia