A/N: I know, this is a really long chapter, and so soon after the most recent one, right? Before I wrote any author's notes, I have this chapter at 8700 words, give or take a few. I was stuck without internet or phones for about a week and a half. I had all that time. I have this chapter done and looked over quite a few times, and I'm as happy with it as I am any chapter I've written. I have a lot of the next chapter done, and want to finish it. I've had another idea for this year's NaNoWriMo, so I've been working on that for awhile, though. I'll publish that story once I get everything finished, no publishing of that until I'm done. As to the idea I told you about last chapter, I've been working on a few different formats of writing, trying to expand my abilities
by Luna Lovegood
Anyone who is not a recent victim of a Wrackspurt infestation is aware of the situation of the wizarding world's greatest current hero, Harry Potter. As we reported when he first disappeared, Harry Potter managed to escape the Ministry of Magic's conspiracy to cross-breed our hero with a certain fertile sub-branch of the only English Veela clan. During this reporter's interview with my old friend, Harry claimed to be unaware of any such conspiracy, but is grateful that he managed to coincidentally escape such an evil scheme. His new girlfriend and old friend, Hermione Granger seemed a little off-put at such a disturbing revelation, but had no comment on the subject. A few of our lucky readers know just how persistent the English Veela can be.
So where has Harry been all these years? Well, according to him, he's been living a hard life as a muggle in the American city of Las Vegas. The Department of American Magical Neighborhoods claims that Las Vegas is one of the most hostile cities on the North American Continent. The "electricity," a recent muggle invention that provides a form of power used to try to make life easier for them, is in very high concentration in Las Vegas, as well as a certain substance called "neon." The combination of the two items causes a disruption in most basic magical powers. Harry claims to have used very little magic in the time he's been gone. Clearly this means that he was aware of the continuing search for him, and the ability of those in charge to perform long-ranges scans in search of his magical signature.
Now that he's back home in England, he's in more danger than ever. Not only is he illegally contracted out by the Ministry to the English Veela clan, Draco Malfoy, himself 1/64th Veela, is jealous of his distant relatives' rejection of his bid to perform as stud in Harry's place. Malfoy has used his stunted Veela powers to persuade the Ministry to allow a legal duel, the first of its kind in close to 300 years.
Far from being worried, however, Harry Potter claims to be looking forward to "teaching the ferret a lesson." Despite nine years of magical inactivity, Harry Potter certainly seems confident. Reluctant to reveal his strategy, he only claims that the duel, set for this Saturday at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, will be one to remember...
More on the interview with Harry Potter... page 3
Reprint of original Ministry/Veela Conspiracy... page 6
Crumple-Horned Snorkacks, new evidence?... page 2
"Well, I think the article went pretty well, actually." Harry struggled to keep his lips from twitching too hard as he passed the paper to Hermione. It took a few seconds less than he predicted for her to start sputtering.
"Veela! Breeding!? No Comment?!? I didn't have a comment because Luna never said anything about that to me!"
Harry was laughing as he grabbed the paper out of her unresisting hands. "Don't worry about it, 'Mione. Luna did what she needed to do. She told the world I'm back, let everyone know that we're together, and helped build up excitement for the duel this Saturday."
"Speaking of the duel, are you actually going to practice at all? There are plenty of empty rooms if you want to get back in the flow of casting spells in a fight." Hermione had made this offer every morning for the past week, since Ron, as Harry's Second, finalized the terms of the duel with Malfoy's Second. She was getting worried that not only did Harry seem to use almost no magic on a day-to-day basis, he didn't ever seem to practice any combat spells.
However, Harry just mustered the same mysterious half-smile he always did when talking about the duel. He was aggravating all his friends with his complete lack of explanation regarding his plans. Even Dobby was getting worried about Harry Potter, sir's chances of winning this duel. The Unforgivables were banned, but everyone knew that Draco Malfoy knew plenty of dark spells and would not hesitate to use them on Harry.
"I'm sorry, Hermione, but all those years I've been alone taught me to keep my cards close to my chest when everything's on the line. Rest assured, that I know what I'm doing, and I won't have any problem taking care of Malfoy."
For some reason, the tone of his voice was so calming, so reassuring, that Hermione found herself unable to argue. Despite the worries running through her head, she nodded, deciding to trust him, for a little while longer.
Despite the early hour, every student was awake by 8 A.M. this Saturday morning. Breakfast was a hurried affair, most of the students were too excited to eat very much. Even Professor Weasley, who was famous for eating almost as much as Professor Hagrid, seemed to have a much smaller portion on his plate that usual. The students didn't know what Headmistress McGonagall knew. Ron was worried for his friend. Harry's casual confidence in the outcome of the match was aggravating to his best friend, who was worried about what Malfoy had been doing to get ready for this. He had followed Harry's instructions exactly when negotiating the terms for the duel, including the one to keep all the terms secret from everyone, including Hermione, and every single directive he was given seemed to put Harry at a disadvantage. As the students were finishing up, but making excuses to stay in the Great Hall, McGonagall stood up.
"Attention, students! We must ask everyone to leave the Hall to set the stage for the duel today. We will start admitting all students back into the Great Hall at approximately 11 A.M. Lunch will be served after the duel."
"Yeah, so let's hope Harry finishes off Malfoy quickly so we can eat!" The voice came from the Gryffindor section, to the laughter of the rest of the school, minus the Slytherins, but Minerva realized to her dismay that she didn't know who said it. She regretted the fact that since she became headmistress, she no longer had the time to get acquainted with "her" Gryffindors. Having Professor Weasley take over the head of Gryffindor was small comfort. She looked his way and sent a quick thought via Legilimancy.
"Do you know who that was?"
Ron's only response was a small shrug and a half-smile. He knew damn well who said it, but for some reason didn't feel like giving up the name of the culprit. She sighed, knowing this was a battle she wasn't going to win. She thanked Merlin for small mercies, at least. Such as the fact that Ron still hadn't bowed to pressure from his twin brothers to make them Honorary Assistant Heads of House for Gryffindor, much to the dismay of the students. He really was a capable Head of House, and she wasn't too sure that she would have told Dumbledore the student's name if she had been in the same position. Not that he would have never needed to ask her. She made a mental note to talk to Dumbledore's portrait to find out how he always knew students' names.
The students filed out of the Hall, headed outside, or back to their common rooms, talking of nothing but the duel.
By eleven o'clock, the Great Hall looked very different. The four long tables had disappeared. A large, circluar stage occupied the center of the room, draped in black velvet. The house elves had arranged bleachers around three quarters of the stage, with VIP seating arranged where the teacher's table usually stood. The students didn't seem to have lost any excitement as they filed in, filling in the seats closest to the stage to guarantee a good view. Except for Slytherins claiming one area of the seating for themselves, the houses mixed together for the event. Minerva looked over to where Hermione was sitting next to Ron and his wife, giving them a small smile.
After the students had finished seating, McGonagall opened the castle to other wizarding residents hoping to see the duel. She barely kept the distaste off her face as she greeted the Minister of Magic and escorted him to his seat in the VIP section. The current Minister of Magic, Isaiah Hartenot, managed to get by the same way Fudge used to, by pandering to the pure-bloods that occupied the Majority of the Wizengamot. Unlike Fudge, however, he somehow mastered the ability to appeal to the half-bloods and muggle-born that made up the majority of the population. Something about the man's personality just never sat right with Minerva, no matter how friendly he tried to act towards her. Except for Weasley, who felt the same way, the other professors seemed to find no problem with the man.
Finally, everyone was seated and Minerva instructed one of the House Elves to admit the two competitors. Draco Malfoy was the first to enter, dressed splendidly in the finest of dueling clothes. The Slytherin section gave a cheer at the sight of their favorite, which Malfoy acknowledged with a bow in their direction. He walked up to the VIP section, greeting the Minister like old friends, which they were. He bowed to Minerva politely, which seemed to curry some respect with the crowd. A self-satisfied smile on his face as he straightened showed her that that was what he planned.
"Mr. Malfoy," she said, with barely contained civility.
"Headmistress, a pleasure to see you again. I'm most grateful that you allowed the use of your School for this unfortunate event." The acoustics of the Hall ensured that his voice carried to each corner of the room. The crowd was completely silent waiting for the Headmistress' response.
"I decided that it would be best to allow this duel to occur here, as it is a neutral arena." She leaned closer to Malfoy and whispered so only he could hear. "Besides, I wouldn't for the world miss the chance to see one of my favorite students wipe the floor with you." Before he could respond, she straightened back in her seat and said loudly enough for everyone to hear, "I look forward to the upcoming entertainment."
Draco managed to keep his cool, plastering a fake smile on his face as he turned towards the crowd. His pace a bit faster than normal as he marched to his spot on the stage, revealing a small limp. Minerva looked over to her friends, and saw Hermione with just a bit of a smirk on her face as she noticed the limp. She knew from Ron that Harry had somehow injured Malfoy in Las Vegas, but she wasn't aware that the healers hadn't been able to fully heal Malfoy up. She was distracted by the House Elf appearing at her side.
"Headmistress, Lacey is unable to find Harry Potter on the school grounds." The elf tried to keep her voice low, but it carried far enough to reach not only Hermione, but also Minister Hartenot. The minister stalked over to the pair. In a loud voice, he said, "What's that? Mr. Potter is missing? Again?" The crowd gasped at the pronouncement, then everyone started talking at once. Professor Weasley raised his wand and cast a Cannon-Blast charm.
"Everyone calm down. Mr. Potter will be here."
"I'm afraid, Professor Weasley that this duel has a very strict starting time. If Mr. Potter is not here within the next five minutes, I'll have no choice but to declare the duel a forfeit in favor of Mr. Malfoy." With that, the Minister sat back down. Engaging in a bit of showmanship, Malfoy cast a Time Keeping charm, conjuring up a clock with a five minute countdown. Except for the excited murmers of the crowd, nothing happened for the next four minutes. Malfoy looked more and more confident, sure that Potter would be too afraid to face him with only magic. He was quite specific in making sure that the agreement for the duel included a clause that allowed only wands as weapons. He had been caught unaware by Potter's unorthodox methods too many times before.
With one minute left on the clock, the doors to the Great Hall flung open. McGonagall frowned; she didn't close the doors, and she could swear that they had already been open before just now. She let out a not-so-silent groan as she saw the Bane of all Hogwarts teachers, the Weasley twins. They were dressed identically in what McGonagall recognized as uniforms of the Vatican Guards. She wasn't sure if they were trying to portray themselves as guards to a religious leader or if they just liked the colors. The only difference between their clothes and regular uniforms were that the bright blue and yellow colors of the outfits switched sides constantly. Truth to tell, it was a bit much, causing the start of a migraine. Then they began to speak...
"And Malfoy," one said, with an over-elaborate bow in his direction.
"We would like to introduce..."
"The Voldemort Vanquisher..."
"The Dark Lord Defeater..."
"The Slytherin Stymier..."
"Making Mincemeat of Malfoys..."
"Don't forget his most important title, dear brother!" One cried in mock alarm.
"Dear me!" His brother cried. "You're quite right, Fred. Would you do the honors?"
"But of course..." Fred paused to take a breath. "Let's not forget his most important accomplishment, Hermione Granger's boyfriend!"
The crowd burst into laughter at the "title" as Ron put his arm around a blushing Hermione. Even Lavender was laughing, now that she knew her husband and his ex-girlfriend were more like brother and sister now, than lovers. The applause died down and they shouted together.
An elaborate flourish toward the doors had the entire crowd staring at the empty entrance. Yet no one appeared. The silence was breathtaking. Draco spared a quick glance at the clock. Thirty seconds left, and he would forever be telling society how the great Harry Potter was too scared to face him. The crowd grew restless.
"Let's try again, brother." They nodded.
"HARRY POTTER!" Again, the crowd stared towards the still empty doors.
"What's everyone looking at?" The voice came from behind the crowd, and everyone turned to see Harry Potter enter via a side door and take his place on the dueling stage, just as the clocked finished it's last second. Silence reigned for a second.
"Harry! You wanted us to announce you!" One of the twins cried in dismay. In response, Harry smirked and turned towards the crowd.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, take a good look. You won't see this very often, but you just witness the Weasley twins as victims instead of initiators of a prank." It took about half a second for the crowd to process this information, then they all roared with laughter, many of them victims themselves of Fred and George's handiwork. Even Headmistress McGonagall was laughing, accepting this as a sort of revenge for all the times she fell victim to some of their pranks.
"Enough!" Malfoy's voice cut through the din. "We have a duel to fight, and Potter is delaying!"
"Aw, don't worry, Malfoy," Harry drawled. "We'll get to you in a second. I just took care of the important stuff first."
"How... How is playing a joke more important that dealing with this duel?!" Malfoy sputtered.
"Because, Malfoy," Harry explained patiently. "Everyone knows that I'm going to beat you today. Seeing a joke played on the Weasley twins is much more unexpected."
Malfoy's face reddened with rage as the crowd laughed at his expense. Here was Harry Potter, who hadn't used his magic for almost ten years, acting like he was going to win easily. He had no clue of what type of training Malfoy had subjected himself to for the past decade. What's even worse, Draco realized, is that Potter doesn't even care what I've done. Potter was acting like the outcome was a forgone conclusion. He swore to make his nemesis pay for his overconfidence. With a supreme effort of will, Draco calmed down. Gritting his teeth, he turned to the Minister of Magic. "Could we please get started?"
"Of course," The minister replied. "Professor Flitwick has been agreed upon by both competitors as an agreeable judge of this duel. Professor, if you would commence with the duel?"
The diminutive professor, who had been waiting by the side, walked to the center of the stage. His squeaky voice seemed more serious than usual, carrying the necessary gravitas for this function.
"Gentlemen," he started, nodding to the two. "If you would take your places." They both moved the marked spots on the floor. "A quick recap of the rules for our audience. As you both agreed, wands are the only tools allowed on the stage. Any curses, hexes, charms, jinxes or spells are allowed, except, of course, for the three Unforgivables."
Hermione gasped. She wasn't aware that Harry had agreed to allow the legality of plenty of dark curses. There was no telling what sort of Dark Magic Malfoy could use with such lax restrictions. The rest of the audience muttered amongst themselves. They all believed that this significantly altered the odds towards the pureblood scion. Harry just smirked. Professor Flitwick continued through the noise.
"The duel ends when one of the contestants yields, is knocked unconscious, dies, or is otherwise unable to continue the duel, contingent on my best judgement." The commotion grew louder at this pronouncement, but he continued over the din. "While specialized wards have been erected to protect the spectators from errant spells, any intentional targeting of the audience will result in a forfeit and additional fine. I am now required by law to make one last appeal to both parties asking for one last chance for the two of you to settle your differences." The crowd waited with baited breath. Draco was about to exclaim, "No way," but Harry spoke first.
"If Draco Malfoy offers a formal public apology to myself and Miss Granger for breaking and entering into my hotel room and kidnapping Miss Granger from that same room, I will make an equivalent, formal public apology for engaging in self defense and shooting Mr. Malfoy in the leg and hand, for causing the destruction of his wand, and for causing the loss of three of his fingers on his dominant hand. Oh, and I will apologize for making him look like a complete idiot to the American Magic Community." Harry kept a formal tone to his voice for the whole speech, but he was smirking as he said the last sentence.
Not all the details of their confrontation in America had been revealed to the General Public, partly on the order of the Ministry of Magic, deciding that the release of the information would be delayed until the completion of the duel. So this was the first time the vast majority of the public had heard about how thoroughly Harry had dealt with Draco. The Minister looked furious that Potter broke the informal gag order, but he was in no position to complain. Harry had cannily revealed the truth in the form of a legal offer that was tradition at the beginning of the duel. Malfoy, for his part, looked ready to explode with rage.
"I will make no apology for the unprovoked and vicious attack I suffered while I was innocently vacationing!" It was obvious to the crowd that he was lying. Now, the results of the duel were insignificant. Even if Malfoy won, and the papers proclaimed Harry's loss and associated guilt for the incident in the colonies, enough people knew the truth that Malfoy's reputation would be damaged.
"Very well," Flitwick said solemnly, though he flashed a quick wink at Harry. "Contestants, ready your selves." He conjured a feather at eye level. "The duel will begin when this feather touches the floor." He moved off the stage and waved his wand at the feather. Slowly it started to drift towards the ground. Draco took out his new wand and held it at the ready, staring at Potter while glancing at the feather. This exposed to the public eye, he was taking no chances at being called out for cheating by starting too early. The feather was halfway to the floor when he realized that Potter hadn't made a single move.
Harry stood, a self-assured smile on his face, hands crossed over his chest as he stared at Malfoy, not even glancing at the feather's progress. His wand was nowhere in sight. Draco refused to be intimidated by Potter's nonchalance. He just pretended that Potter had drawn his wand, and was ready when the feather touched the floor.
"Expelliarmus!" Draco shouted, watching the spell fly true. It slammed into Potter's chest... and nothing happened. Harry laughed and opened his arms, showing his empty hands to the crowd.
"Just what exactly did you expect a disarming spell to do to an unarmed opponent, Malfoy?" The crowd enjoyed another laugh at Malfoy's expense, further angering the dueler.
"Reducto!" The spell flew straight towards his opponent, but, without him seeming to move, the spell flew just past Potter's head, splashing harmlessly on the wards at the edge of the ring. The section of the crowd that found themselves temporarily face to face with one of the spells gasped and applauded at the dodge.
"You seem to have missed, Malfoy. Why don't you try again?"
Even though he knew he was playing towards Potter's showmanship, Malfoy's pride refused to let him quit casting. He started a rapid fire casting of different low level curses. Even though his marksmanship was excellent, Potter evaded every single spell, moving with a grace that generated the illusion of him standing still. Malfoy paused after about twenty spells to take a breath.
"Are you kidding me, Malfoy? I've never had this much trouble hitting a target with a spell."
Malfoy did his best to ignore the taunts and released a sweep of stunners, hoping that a dodge of one of them would place Potter in the path of another. Potter ruined his plans by executing a neat jump and somersault over the spells. It was the first obvious exertion by Potter, which drove the crowd to cheer his tactic.
"Draw your wand and fight me, Potter!" The frustration was evident in Malfoy's voice.
Harry just laughed, causing many in the crowd to laugh with him. "Malfoy, I promised myself after I destroyed Voldemort that I would only draw my wand if I was in danger."
"Sectumsempra!" The dark purple light of the curse was spread in a long edge as it raced from Malfoy's wand towards his infuriatingly casual opponent. Harry dropped to the floor on his back, letting the spell pass over him, but before Malfoy could react, he drew his legs up towards his chest and kicked them out, pushing off the ground with his hands. Before anyone realized he was on the ground, Harry Potter was already standing back up. Gasps of approval rang out from the crowd at the impressive athletic move.
"Torturatus!" The crowd gasped and booed at this latest spell. Similar to the Cruciatas, this spell was designed to cause agonizing pain. The only reason it wasn't an Unforgivable was that it was able to be blocked by a sufficiently powerful shield spell (and because the ministry reserved the right to use the spell as a form of legalized torture in times of emergency). To everyone's surprise, though, Harry made no move to shield himself, or dodge the spell. Instead he held out his hand and let the spell hit him. He again defied everyone's expectations by not dropping to the ground or screaming in pain. He allowed a mild look of discomfort to flit over his face.
Malfoy looked suitably shocked. He could tell that the spell was still active and he could cut it off at any point he wanted. He also knew that he had lost whatever approval from the crowd he once had. Even the Slytherins watching seemed to take exception to the very dark spell. He checked his wand again, yes, the spell was active, but it seemed to have no effect.
"Don't worry, Malfoy. Your spell is active. You just don't realize that a spell like this barely affects me now."
Malfoy cut the spell off in frustration. "Why won't it work, Potter?"
"Because of my final battle with Voldermort, Malfoy." The statement was so shocking, it sounded like one gasp as the entire crowd leaned forward as if to hear better. Harry Potter had been famous for always refusing to reveal any details of his final battle. The details had only been released to a certain trusted Unspeakable of the Department of Mysteries via Pensieve. The memory was held in a classified Pensieve, the Ministry confirming only that the Dark Lord was truly dead according to the memories Harry Potter released. Harry had even refused to reveal any details to Ron, Hermione, or Ginny. He always claimed that he needed time to come to grips with memory.
"I was losing the battle when Voldemort made his fatal mistake." Harry's voice dropped to barely above a whisper. Even Malfoy stopped the duel to listen. Harry seemed to forget where he was, his eyes staring into nothing as he recounted his most horrible memory...
The knowledge that he knowingly walked into the trap was scant comfort as Harry felt the spell wall trap him inside the Riddle Manor, cutting himself off from everyone but his deadly nemesis. Despite his preperations, and the knowledge that all the Horcuxes were destroyed, Harry still wasn't sure that he was ready to face Voldemort. To be totally honest, he hadn't expected Tom to run away upon seeing the destruction of his lifelines. Harry had been hoping the final battle would be held at Hogwarts, so he would have a shorter trip to the infirmary after he was done.
"Well, Potter," the sibilant voice seemed to be coming from the very walls of the house. Just like Tom to gloat. "I'm so glad you could make it to your death."
"It won't be that easy, Tom." Harry was glad that his voice managed to keep from wavering. It sounded strong, confident, full of foolish Gryffindor courage. "I've already taken care of your Horcruxes. You're next."
"Your destruction of those trinkets mean nothing! I can always make more, after I destroy you." Harry heard many emotions in Riddle's voice: anger, fear, and just a little bit of a bluff.
"I don't think you can, Tom. You've already stretched your own soul so thin through the making of those. If you make any more, you'll no longer be human." Harry kept moving through the house, twitching at every shadow, imagining noises in every room that lay beyond every empty door he passed. He walked into what must have been a dining room, so long ago. The entire room had been emptied out, however. The entire room was clean, immaculate.
"But I will be Immortal!" Voldemort's voice rose to a shout as he appeared in the center of the room in a burst of flame. "With you and that prophecy out of the way, no one will be able to stop me!"
"Don't you remember what Dumbledore said, Tom? There are fates so much worse than death."
"Stop calling me Tom! I am Lord Voldemort! I left that filthy Muggle name in my past, like I will you!"
At Voldemort's blustering, Harry realized that he actually felt a small amount of pity for the man Tom Riddle could have been.
"That name is always a part of you, Tom. You ensured that when you formed your new name out of your old name. Run from the past all you want, it will catch up to you. My presence here today is evidence of that." Harry wasn't sure what part of his mind the words were coming from, but they actually lifted his courage more with each sentence he spoke. On the contrast, Voldemort looked more out of control. His rage was overwhelming. Harry knew, suddenly, that he would be walking out of this house today.
"You're stalling, Potter!" Malfoy shook himself out of the trance that had seemed to fall over himself, the judge, and the crowd as Harry spoke of what happened. He cast a boiling hex designed to turn the water in his enemy's blood to steam, but Harry sidestepped that as easily as every other curse sent his way.
"Oh, Malfoy. Don't you know? The rest of our audience wants me to finish the story." True to Harry's words, the crowd started making their wishes known.
"Let him finish!"
Harry held his hands up, and amazingly, the crowd quieted. "Now, Malfoy wants to duel, but I want to tell a little story. I propose a compromise." Before Malfoy could react, he drew his wand for the first time and let loose a spell. "Petrificus Partialus!"
Malfoy tried to dodge, but wound up sidestepping directly into the path of the spell. He fell to the floor like a rock. He tried to get back up, but was unable to move any part of his body below the neck. He swung his head around, only able to see a small part of the Great Hall. Potter had him at his mercy. Professor Flitwick stepped up to the center of the stage.
"As Mr. Malfoy is unable to continue the duel, I declare Harry Potter the..."
"Wait a minute!" Harry interrupted the tiny man. "Mr. Malfoy is quite able to continue the duel. The spell can be broken by someone with sufficiently strong will, and he is able to yield, if he desires. I left him able to move his head and mouth for that reason."
"I'll get you for this, Potter!"
"Well, it certainly seems that Mr. Malfoy is not incapacitated. I'll let the duel continue." A small smirk on his face betrayed Flitwick's emotions as he walked back to his position. Malfoy, able to hear everything, even if neither of the two were in his field of view, waited fearfully for Potter's next spell.
"Now, where was I?" Harry asked the crowd. Draco couldn't believe it. Potter was going to continue the story and just leave him on the floor! Like he, and the duel, weren't worth his time!
"This is ridiculous, Potter!" Draco started to shout. But he stopped when he heard a high-pitched, whiny sounding voice come out of his mouth. The crowd undulated with laughter.
"Oh, I must have forgot to tell you, Malfoy. From now on, unless you use the formal words to yield the duel, your voice will sound like that until the end of the duel."
"You son of a bitch!" The words were ugly, but the way they sounded removed all threat from Malfoy's voice. He shut up, not wanting to cause the crowd to laugh at his expense. Now he just needed to remember how to break a partial paralyzation spell.
"Back to the story. I knew that I would be walking out of that house that day. What an idiot I was..."
"Enough talk!" Voldemort exclaimed. "Time to die! Cruciatus! Avada Kedavra!"
Harry had started to dodge the bead of red light only to find himself directly in the path of the ugly green spell. He was barely able to dodge it, and would look into a pensieve later in his life to see that the spell actually grazed the sleeve of his robe. For the next five minutes, Voldemort kept Harry on the defensive, casting an amazing amount of spells. Harry was sure that he was getting hit more than he was dodging, but he was fortunate to keep from coming in contact with a stunner or any of the Unforgivables. He suddenly found himself stuck in a corner of the room.
"Protego Maximus!" A solid white shield appeared on the end of his wand, expanding in a large circle.
With the barrage of spells he was using, Voldemort didn't have the time to call up the energy for another killing curse, and he knew that if he stopped, the annoying teenager would manage to work his way out of the corner. He knew he could break through the shield soon enough. With an evil smile, Voldemore stepped up the volume of curses hurtling Potter's way.
Harry kept behind his shield, wondering when he would hear the two words that would make him need to dodge. Instead of a killing curse, he felt the tempo of spells striking against his shield actually increase. He felt the shield, called forth from his core of magic, starting to weaken. Slowly, he inched forward, almost getting thrown back against the wall from the impacts of the curses. As the shield started to fail, he worked himself far enough away from the wall for one more dodge.
With a cry, he cancelled the shield, diving to one side. Five different curses flew through the space he had just left, demolishing the plaster work. The wallpaper started to burn. Harry took advantage of Voldemort's momentary confusion, letting loose his own barrage of spells. He was thankful that Snape, that git, had managed to teach silent casting. Harry was struck by the momentarily crazy thought that he learned more from Snape in one year of Defense Against the Dark Arts than he did five years of Potions. A bone-breaker hex hit Voldemort's off-hand, but he ignored the pain it caused, brushing away Harry's other spells. A fleeting calm settled over the two. Voldemort looked at his ruined arm, noting the way it dangled uselessly.
"Impressive, Potter. I believe this is the most damage anyone has ever inflicted on me." A wave of his wand caused the bones to set. Harry winced, involuntarily. He knew from during his Horcrux hunt that self medication hurt like hell. A grimace washed over Voldemort's face as the pain from the broken arm flared as it healed. Harry stood in the ready position, waiting, as he watched Voldemort heal himself.
"Why did you not attack me, Potter?" Despite himself, Voldemort actually seemed curious.
He shrugged. "I'm not sure. It didn't seem fair." Harry thought, as he spoke, that it was probably the stupidest thing he'd ever said, or thought, for that matter. Voldemort laughed in surprise.
"Not fair? You are worried about fairness? And yet," Voldemort seemed a bit unsure. "I believe I shall repay you. This my final offer to surrender. No harm will come to you or your friends if the three of you swear a Wizard's Oath to me as your master."
"You know that's never going to happen, Tom."
"Very well," Voldemort hissed. "CRUCIO!"
The spell shot out of Voldemort's wand faster than any previous spell. It hit Harry before he could even think to dodge. The pain was extraordinary. It felt five times worse than it did at the graveyard after Voldemort's resurrection. He dropped to the floor, writhing in pain. Voldemort held the curse for what felt like over a minute before he released Harry in order to gloat. Harry's muscles, compacted in tiny, painful knots, started to relax. He felt like he had been burned to ashes and frozen in ice. His breath drowned out the words he knew Voldemort was saying. His hearing returned in time to hear the last word. "CRUCIO!"
The pain started again, even worse than before, if that was possible. Knowing the Longbottom's fate, Harry vowed to kill himself before he started going crazy. As a desperate attempt, he reinforced his Occlumency shields, and was surprised to feel the pain lessen a tiny bit. Now it just felt like he was being hit by Bludgers over every centimeter of his body once every two seconds, instead of every second.
"He's got to release the curse sometime," he told himself. Harry felt, through the pain, his wand still being gripped. His hand had tightened when the spell hit, holding the wand in a death grip. The spell lifted again. Harry wasn't ready for the difference he felt. The after effects of the spell seemed to hold him hostage almost as much as the spell itself. He lay on the floor, breathing like he'd just felt air for the first time. At least he was able to hear Voldemort's words, this time.
"I will make you suffer, Potter, as I have suffered. You will pay for the destruction of each of my Horcruxes. You will envy the Longbottoms' merciful fate compared to how I will leave you! Crucio!"
Harry tried to roll out of the way, but his body wasn't fully capable. The Cruciatus once again flooded through his body. Harry reinforced his Occlumency shields with every iota of magic he could. As the pain lessened to almost nothing... well, almost nothing compared to the previous two session, Harry realized that he wasn't thrashing around as much. He started trying to move his arms and legs. They jerked around a bit more, and Voldemort seemed unsuspicious.
"Next time he lets up the curse, I'll have him," Harry thought. He positioned himself, through jerks and twitches so he could get a good view of Voldemort and his wand. He could still feel the pain, and knew that he would be agonizingly sore tomorrow, but he no longer worried about going crazy. Until time kept passing. Harry had no way to tell time, but this third Cruciatus seemed to have gone on longer than the other two combined. He could feel his magic straining to keep the pain from the spell reaching his mind. He tried to stretch his muscles as much as possible while hiding them in jerks and spasms. He suddenly had an idea.
"Aaaaiiiiiiieeeeeiiiiiiieeeeee!" The scream was music to Voldemort's ears. He knew now that Potter was close to the breaking point. How rapturous he would feel as he dragged Potter's broken body, holding a broken mind, to the front door of Hogwarts. There, in front of the entire school, would he cast the spell to end Potter's life. It had been fifteen minutes already. Voldemort was impressed, in spite of himself. Most times, it barely took ten minutes for a Cruciatus to torture an individual to the point of insanity. Potter had already undergone almost twenty-five minutes over three sessions. As he watched, the teenager's head started shaking from side to side, spittle flying out of his open mouth, releasing a heart-wrenching moan. Satisfied, Voldemort lifted the spell. His enemy was broken, and now, no one would stand in his way.
"Oh, Potter. How much I could have shown you if you had only joined me. It's time to find your friends, Potter. Time to show them all the price of defiance!" Throughout Voldemort's tirade, Harry just lay there, moaning and shaking. He was pretty sure that he could manage one spell as a surprise, but he needed Voldemort to get closer. He didn't want to risk missing. Closer, closer... Voldemort was almost by Harry's side. Close enough.
"Diffindo!" Rolling to his knees in a sudden burst of strength, Harry cast the cutting curse with all his will. A solid, paper-thin beam of red light shot from his wand. An extra burst of luck had the spell strike Voldemort's wrist, cutting off the hand that held his wand.
"WHAT?!" Voldemort's shriek of anguish, rage and surprise was deafening. He stared at Potter, who was most definitely not insane. He looked to the floor, trying to find out where his wand had fallen, but Potter beat him to the punch.
"Accio Wand!" The bone-white wand flew to Potter's hand. "You knew that I would get a different wand, didn't you, Tom? That's why you didn't bother to replace yours. But I kept my old one." Harry reached into his robes and drew out his original wand. In such close proximity to its brother, both wands started to glow.
In his haste to escape, Voldemort tried to Apparate out of the manor, only to forget about the wards he had put up earlier. The wards flung him back to his original position, leaving him in great pain. He stared into Potter's eyes, cold and unyielding. He knew now that he was going to lose, that Potter was going to kill him, and he could do nothing.
"You're a rabid dog, Tom. You need to be put down." Harry sighed. "Reducto!" The spell flew out of both wands at the same time. One hit Voldemort's head, the other his chest. He blew apart in a spray of gore, making a mess of the entire room. Bits of blood and bone were stuck in the air in front of Harry, who had subconsciously turned the air solid to shield himself from the mess. Some of Hermione's words floated around in his head at the moment.
"You need to remember. When we finally kill Voldemort, we need to remove any trace of his body that his followers might try to use to bring him back." Harry smiled. Even back then, Hermione refused to believe that there was any chance of defeat. She always used 'when' instead of 'if.' This room was literally covered in pieces of Voldemort. There was one spell he had heard about that should be able to take care of this. He went to the door, ready to head out and turned back towards the room. From what he had read, he wanted to be nowhere near this spell. He pointed at the far corner of the room.
"Inflammato Damnatus!" The hellfire spell. Hermione had found it while trying to find different methods of destroying the Horcruxes. Everyone had agreed after reading the description that it was too volatile to use for one Horcrux, but it seemed to be the perfect idea for right now. Harry turned and ran out of the house. Already the fire was spreading much faster than any ordinary fire. He barely made it out of the house as the fire chased him as far as the door frame.
"So you see, Malfoy. After about thirty minutes of the Cruciatus, your little spell wouldn't even begin to hurt." Malfoy had struggled the entire time Harry was telling his story. He thought he could wiggle a finger, but he didn't think he had much of a chance to totally free himself before Potter dealt with him now that the story was finished.
Hesitantly, the crowd started clapping at the end of the story. It started off sporadically, but within seconds, the whole place was cheering. Harry recitation somehow managed to break through the fear of the memory of Voldemort that still held the populace hostage. It was cathartic, in a way. Harry seemed a little stunned. He began to wonder that maybe he should have told the story long ago. It would have helped with popular opinion of him. One woman, it sounded like Rita Skeeter, shouted out,
"What happened next?"
"Next?" Harry repeated. "I waited outside with Ron and Hermione. As soon as the Hellfire burned itself out, we combed the ashes of the building for any piece of his body that might have survived the flames. I can say for sure that Voldemort is completely and truly gone, body, mind and soul." The crowd cheered again, but suddenly broke off into a collective gasp.
Draco had managed to suddenly sit up and regain the use of his arms. With a snarl that would have sounded vicious if not for the high pitch of his voice, he let loose a nasty bone-breaking hex that caught Harry on the heel of his foot as he dived out of the way. The comic quality of his voice did nothing to affect the spell's potency, however. In the sudden silence, the breaking bone was clearly audible. Try as he might, Draco was unable to regain control of his legs, so he sat in place, casting a large volume of spells. Each one came closer as Harry limped around the arena, barely dodging each spell. Despite the situation, Harry started laughing.
"See, Professor Flitwick? I told you he was capable of continuing the duel." Flitwick let loose a shocked giggle at Harry's pronouncement.
Harry let loose with a simple stunning spell which Draco dodged the only way he could. He lay back flat as the spell passed over him. Harry cast an Expelliarmus that actually hit Draco, but as the wand flew out of his hand, Harry saw that it was connected with a piece of string. Draco yanked his arm back, and the wand flew back to his hand. He had to admit, he was impressed with Malfoy's preparation. Then Malfoy did what he should have started off with. He pointed the wand at his legs and cancelled the rest of the spell.
Harry took the opportunity to heal his broken foot. The pain washed over him as the bones set, but such a small ache was nothing compared to the Cruciatus. The two opponents once again stood facing each other, ready to continue the battle.
"Any more little stories, Potter?" The chipmunk voice was still funny, but the crown found itself holding its collective breath. It was obvious that Draco was a worthy opponent who had managed to land a few deserved hits on Harry.
"Well, I could recount the time Tex dragged me to the Crazy Horse, but I don't want to piss Hermione off. She's much scarier than you." The crowd sniggered as Hermione flushed. "But you know, Malfoy, I'd rather you tell a story. Veritas!" A grey spell shot out and hit Draco in the chest.
"What the hell was that, Potter?" Draco searched himself for damage, but didn't seem to find anything.
"Nothing important, Draco. Tell me, why did you decide to visit Vegas?"
"You know why," Draco sneered. "I tracked your Mudblood girlfriend there and found you." A small part of his mind knew that he shouldn't be telling this, but he didn't want to pass up the opportunity to gloat.
"Yeah, what next?" Potter didn't seem the least bit angry.
"I kidnapped Granger and set a trap for you. It would have worked, too, if you hadn't cheated." Draco suddenly knew what Potter had done. "You used a truth spell on me!" Saying it confirmed Draco's suspicions. He would never have admitted what he had if Potter hadn't cast that spell.
"That's right, Malfoy. Now everyone knows that you were lying, for sure. No matter what happens with this duel." Harry smirked. "You never did think ahead far enough to count for every possibility. You should have known that I could play the crowd better than you. I always have."
Draco was so flustered by the knowledge that he admitted the truth to such a large crowd, that he wasn't able to put up a very effective defense. Harry soon had him tied up in conjured ropes, levitating above the ground, his head pointed towards some illusory hellhounds that were barking and breathing fake fire.
"Do you yield, Mr. Malfoy?" Harry spoke the ritual question to finish the duel. Malfoy knew he had no choice.
"I so yield the duel to Mr. Potter." He sighed in frustration. He had lost again. At least, by formally ending the duel, his voice changed back to normal. The crowd cheered the victor as Harry canceled his spells, slowly lowering Malfoy back to the floor. Malfoy was a bit surprised that Potter had rotated him to land feet first. He was well within his rights to just cancel the spells. The rules only stated that he could do no more harm with any magic. There was nothing in the rules that said he had to keep Malfoy from harming himself from the effects of the spells being canceled.
The two walked to the center of the stage where they shook hands. Harry searched Draco's face for the malice that he was expecting, but only saw defeat, and a small amount of depression. He didn't think for one second that he had actually beat Malfoy for good. It was only a matter of time before his next plan caused Harry trouble. They bowed to the judge signaling the end of the duel, and Hermione was in his arms a second later.
In full view of the entire crowd, she performed a passionate kiss, leaving him breathless. The crowd went wild. Unnoticed, alone, Malfoy slipped out the same back door that Potter had entered.
The apparition point at Malfoy Manor was as gloomy as the rest of the outside of the Mansion. The sky was overcast, looking about to rain any minute. Malfoy headed up the long walk, wanting nothing more than to get inside and try to forget today and what it meant. A voice from behind one of the grotesquely shaped hedges stopped him in his tracks. He hadn't heard the voice in ten years. And it was impossible that he heard it now.
"An admirable effort, boy. You have improved significantly since you left school. But if you want to defeat the boy who destroyed our master, you will need much more skill than what you have."
"You're dead, father." Malfoy turned and looked at the person who, if he didn't know was dead, was the spitting image of his father.
"Do I look dead, foolish child?" The man asked impatiently.
"Of course not. That means you are not my father. What is it? Glamour, Polyjuice?"
"Does it matter, boy? You have an ally. You have someone who can help you destroy that pompous, puffed up 'hero.'"
"Maybe I don't want help. Maybe I don't want to destroy him any more. I'm tired. I'm going inside."
"You are a fool to ignore me. But I will let it slide today." The man handed him a card. There was no name, only a set of coordinates for apparition. "Think it over. When your pride flows freely through your veins once more, when you remember what it means to be a Malfoy, come visit me. We'll talk then."
The man started walking to the Apparition point. Before he disappeared, he turned around and stared at Draco, who hadn't moved yet. "Don't wait too long, boy. I'm not as patient as you are to witness Potter's Fall."
The rain started falling as Draco stared at the card in his hand. The droplets hit the card and slid off, leaving the coordinates clear and unsmudged. The pride already started to rear its head in his mind. Knowing he had an ally, whoever it was, allowed Draco to contemplate certain possibilities. He ignored the rain for a long time, staring at the card, working out different scenarios. He was soaked by the time a crash of thunder woke him from his reverie. He hurried the rest of the way to the Mansion. It was time to relax, and consider what he could now accomplish.
A/N: The Wrackspurt infestation comes from on of my all time favorite stories, Nightmares of Future Past by Matthew Schocke (Viridian Dreams on fanficauthors), and I've probably used one or two ideas that I've seen on other stories and can't remember that they gave me the inspiration. If you recognize something that you originally came up with, let me know so I can apologize and give you credit. I know that I've got one or two ideas for my next chapter from other stories, and am trying to keep notes so I know whom to give credit to. Hope you enjoyed the chapter.