A/N: I own nothing. Okay, now I'm really tired of saying this. The words in italics refer to past memories or thoughts.
Harry had known this would happen at some point. Voldemort was just too powerful and experienced for an amateur like him to bring down.
"Did you truly think you could vanquish me, Potter?" Voldemort asked, every syllable trembling with a perverse wild joy, "I am immortal, Potter. If there ever was a god, I am that god, Potter. Yet, I find myself curious. Tell me, Potter, for Lord Voldemort is seldom curious; how did you escape the Killing Curse at Diagon Alley? We have plenty of time for chit-chat."
Harry remained silent.
He had to bring down the impenetrable fortress that shrouded Voldemort's mind.
A hundred white-hot rods boring into his body. Pain. Ultimate torture.
Harry gritted his teeth.
"Impressive, Potter. I must admit, you truly have changed. At the very least, you do not scream like a lass these days." Voldemort's tone was mocking, sarcastic.
"Polyjuice Potion, Tom," Harry replied, keeping his voice level and flat, "Slughorn took my place."
He could see those cunning red-green eyes decipher his cryptic statements.
"You were fooled by Polyjuice Potion, Tom. Polyjuice Potion. A simplistic plan. Right under your nose," Harry spat, "Wait, you don't have a proper nose. You have slits for nostrils. Whoops, I forgot."
Harry flinched. He knew it would come. There had been only a moment's warning. The red eyes flashed with rage.
Torture, all over again. The Cruciatus.
"Pain is necessary," the Buddhist monk had said, "It destroys your sins – of the previous lives as well as the present life. All part of the Karmic Cycle."
Harry reached out a stealthy tendril of Legilimency, shivering in pain, after the Cruciatus subsided.
"I say this for the last time, Potter," Voldemort muttered, his tone no longer sarcastic, "Bow to death, Harry."
"Is that the only punch line you've got?" Harry asked, "I mean I've heard it over a hundred times."
Another Cruciatus. He was so accustomed to pain, he no longer registered it. It was but a dim sensation prickling at the edge of his mind. He was insane, anyway.
"Immortals cannot be vanquished, Potter. You must know that."
Harry smirked. "Immortal, are we, Voldemort?" he asked, every word replete with cynicism, "What… are we still depending on the Horcruxes?"
The red eyes were no longer narrowed in cruel, malicious joy. They were now wide with rage and shock.
He was desperate. He had to shatter that impenetrable fortress.
He reached out a thread of Legilimency. He could feel the walls shattering, slowly, due to the immense rage contained within.
"You know nothing, Potter," Voldemort said, trying in vain to regain his composure, "You know nothing." He spat out the last line.
"Let me see…" Harry said, holding up both his hands and counting on them, "Six horcruxes, were they not? Pitiful, the length you would go to attain something as futile as immortality. Nagini, Your moronic diary, Hufflepuff's Cup, Slytherin's locket, Ravenclaw's tiara… and, ah… the school's Sorting Hat…"
The red snake-like eyes were now wide with shock.
More walls were shattered.
"Do you take me for a fool, Potter? I checked on them," Voldemort shrieked, "They are safe!"
"And you sent, ah… Severus, on this secret mission, didn't you? Not exactly reliable is he? Seeing as he betrayed you in the battle."
Harry shrugged casually. And he laughed. "You see… Lord… Voldemort", he said, tears of laughter flowing out of his eyes; "You're as mortal as I am."
The red eyes blazed forth. Magic – dark, inhuman and vengeful – flowed over the Astronomy Tower, covering the stars and the moon, shrouding them in the darkest of cloaks.
Thunder crackled through the darkness.
The fortress vanished.
Voldemort's wand blazed, as all the emotions of the owner, flowed through it, flooding its narrow channels, like water gushing forth through a cracked dam.
Harry's Legilimency thread extended into Voldemort's unguarded mind, all its emotions laid bare.
He pushed forth with all his strength.
"Avada Kedavra," Voldemort shrieked into the darkness.
There was a green flash.
Harry Potter vanished, just as the green jet was a hair's breadth away from his chest.
The stones cracked as the spell hit empty ground. The dust settled.
Voldemort was on the ground, writhing and shrieking, like a worm caught on the hook of a fishing line.
Blood gushed forth from the body of the former immortal.
Shrieks of fear. Shrieks of rage. Shrieks of a demon.
He had possessed Voldemort.
The duel was not longer external. It was a duel of two beings – whole and pure.
The two magical waves – one warm and filled with immense sorrow, and the other inhuman and filled with fear and rage – clashed and produced a magical interference that rippled across the entire castle.
The goblins collapsed. The vampires staggered. Even the wizards and witches felt it. The walls of the castle shook.
The red eyes turned green. Harry's eyes.
They looked at Ginny's prone form. Memories surfaced… memories of lost love, memories of the tiny, lovely moments they had shared.
They moved to Hermione's prone form. Other memories surfaced, like corpses rising to the top of a chaotic ocean. A different kind of love. He remembered all the concern, all the love, all the warmth and support that Hermione had given him. If not for Ginny, it would have been her.
He thought of Sirius. The only family he had ever known. The laughter-filled moments. Sirius… falling through the veil.
He thought of his parents. A mother who would give her life for him. A father who would die to defend him. He thought of their tragic death, a pain so vast and deep arose in his heart.
Love at its most splendid, its most chaotic.
Love. Love. Love.
Love at its purest, its most tragic, its most devotional.
He felt as if his heart would burst at all the love that he contained within it. His chest expanded.
A dark wisp arose and enveloped Voldemort's body like the halo of a demon.
And it dispersed into the night sky.
The Dark Lord magical core imploded, like the core of a dying star, collapsing upon itself, unused to love.
Voldemort's eyes closed and he crumpled to the rough stone floor.
A moment later, Harry reappeared, leaning against the bastions, panting.
He heard the faint sounds of battle down below.
"Dobby," he called suddenly, "Dobby!" He was panting. The world could black out at any moment now.
The house elf appeared. Its great bulbous eyes travelled over the unconscious form of Voldemort and over to Harry's prone form. "Harry Potter did it!" he shouted, "Harry Potter did it!"
"Dobby…" Harry muttered, screwing up his face in immense pain, "He isn't dead. He's alive. His magical core has been extinguished. He cannot perform magic. Don't ask me how… I know… just keep him bound in chains and maintain a guard of house elves over him. Gather the rest of the house elves… and attack… attack…"
Harry had no choice. The world was going to black out. He disapparated.
He had to get back to the cave before he collapsed.
Minerva retreated. In the confusion she had lost contact with Moody and Scrimgeour.
They had retreated to the classrooms now. The Death Eaters had swarmed all over the castle. The dark goblins and vampires were continuing their job of aggravating the confusion amongst the Forces of Light.
Suddenly there were cracks all over the place. The cracks of Apparition.
Great balls of fire erupted from several places, rolling over the Death Eaters.
Minerva watched in astonishment, as the House Elves of the school advanced, attacking the Death Eaters ferociously.
"He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is vanquished!" they chanted in one voice "Harry Potter defeated him!"
Minerva could not believe her ears. It was as if someone had given her a boost of energy. A second wind.
The Forces of the Light surged forward, heartened by the news. They surged over the Death Eaters and the Dark Legion.
It would all be over soon.
The Wizengamot had been convened. The warlocks had been assembled. They were gathered in full strength to witness the most legendary case that it had ever been summoned for.
Hermione watched from a balcony reserved specially for certain approved guests. She saw several familiar faces amongst the Wizengamot. McGonagall had been declared the Minister of Magic in a quick round of votes. She presided over the Meeting, her eyes boring into those of the accused. Arthur Weasley was also amongst the Wizengamot, having been promoted to the post of Undersecretary. Percy Weasley, Dolores Umbridge and Kingsley Shacklebolt were also amongst those seated on the high chairs.
The accused too, was present, shackled in chains on a hard wooden chair at the centre of the Ministry.
Tom Marvolo Riddle.
A ring of hooded Aurors stood around Voldemort, their naked wands held aloft.
"You have shown no guilt, despite all the terrible deeds you committed in life, Tom. For this, you shall be sentenced to execution," McGonagall said.
"Those in favour of execution, please raise their hands," she said, her crisp voice booming across the stone chamber.
Every single hand in the Wizengamot was upraised.
"Those against conviction, please raise their hands," she said.
Not even a single hand was upraised. Hermione could see the cold fury at being terrorised for two decades etched in the faces of all those present.
The gavel resounded through the entire hall. Execution, it was.
"Any last words, Tom?" McGonagall asked, her eyebrows raised.
Lord Voldemort's eyes passed over each and every member of the Court, before they settled on McGonagall.
"Yes," he hissed, "And they are more than just a few words."
"My death… a deed to be celebrated, indeed!" he said, his voice rising in pitch and fervour, "A tyrant dies today, is it not? Yet, I wonder what my death will achieve. Will it be able to eradicate the prejudice held against Muggleborn witches and wizards, I wonder? Will it be enough to free all the house elves from their poor treatment? Will it remove the centuries of prejudices held against part-humans?"
Hermione felt Lupin stir slightly.
Voldemort laughed the same high-pitched laughter that had plagued Harry's nightmares for so long. Harry Potter, the Hero-Who-Had-Vanished.
"I guess not. My death will not change a thing. There are many amongst those assembled in this… ah, prestigious… Wizengamot that supported my ideals in secret and financed my Death Eater camps. I merely brought out into the open what many wizards had cherished in their hearts for so long. To conserve pureblood heritage, and maintain pure blood supremacy. I was merely more… vocal… about it. Is that such a crime?"
There were murmurs throughout the chamber.
The snake-like eyes widened in amusement.
"There are many amongst us who had considered part-humans as inferior to ourselves. I sought to give them an equal status. Is that a crime, I wonder?"
Hermione discreetly saw Umbridge shudder in her seat. She smirked.
"There are those amongst us that sought to impose tougher restrictions on the goblin nations. I merely sought to empower them further, so that they stood on the same pedestal as us, wizards. Is that such a crime?
"I ask you, men and women of the Wizengamot, what crime have I committed? Will my death change the prejudices that have accumulated in our hearts for centuries, rankling and festering within our brains? No, it won't. Because Wizarding Society is stubborn. It will always have pureblood supremacists and it will never change. The world is not all white and black. It's rather in shades of grey. Sadly, Wizarding Society has always been on the darker side of grey. And it will always remain on the darker side."
The concluding note was defiant and firm. There was pin-drop silence throughout the chamber. Many warlocks shifted uncomfortably. Voldemort had struck home with that final speech.
Suddenly one of the Aurors in the ring surrounding Voldemort brought his hands together, clapping fiercely. Each clap resounded throughout the hall, echoing against the walls.
The Auror stepped in front of Voldemort and lifted his hood.
Déjà vu. Harry Potter, in all his fearsome glory.
The other Aurors were confused. Their wands dropped limply by their sides. There were gasps throughout the hall.
Harry clapped one last time. "Hear, hear," he said, his voice sarcastic and harsh, "Well said, indeed, Tom. At least we agree on the fact that your death will not change a thing. Neither will it change the prejudice against part-humans, nor against muggleborns. If you had not resorted to violence, and if your hidden agenda was not that of pure tyranny and autocracy, you might have found me a loyal supporter. Unfortunately, Tom, your true aim was to garner power for yourself… hoard it all up and enslave everyone around you."
Voldemort's eyes were no longer blazing. They were wide and fearful.
"What are you doing, Potter?" he hissed.
Harry turned. A sword gleamed in the semi-darkness by the light of the torches, and the ruby on the hilt of the sword glistened.
The sword flashed. It went straight through Voldemort's heart, shattering the wooden chair, and emerging through Voldemort's back.
"I'm doing the right thing, Tom," he hissed.
Harry vanished through the back door.
Lord Voldemort was dead.
And Harry Potter had vanished again - still the elusive hero.
The clouds settled over the misty plain. The sky was dreary, as if the heavens themselves were mourning the loss of the hundreds that had sacrificed their lives in the war. The grey rain-clouds seemed to be swollen, yet were reluctant to part with their massive celestial teardrops, so immense was the veil of sorrow draped over the plain. The grass blew softly in the cold breeze, rustling along with the hundreds of black cloaks worn at the funeral.
McGonagall – the Minister of Magic – had called for an honorary funeral to honour those who had sacrificed their lives in the war.
Hermione stared at the giant screen displaying the names of those who had died in the war.
Neville Longbottom – Order of Merlin, Second Class.
She looked at Ron. He was leaning moodily against the post. It had been nearly a month after Voldemort's sudden murder in the Ministry. Harry had eluded Ministry capture. It was ironic, in a way. The Ministry was actually trying to seize its hero.
Severus Snape had been sentenced to seven months in Azkaban, despite his heroic duel at the last minute. "It is the belief of the Wizengamot that one last minute of heroism does not erase the sins of the past," McGonagall had said.
Her bushy hair blew in a tangled mass, clouding her vision. She brushed it away.
Ginny came and stood next to her. "That Kelgore guy gives me the creeps," she said.
Hermione turned. She saw Ivan Kelgore talking to Fred and George. Ivan was a Transylvanian who had been helping Fred and George rebuild their business empire – the Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes. It was a tad bit shady, she thought. In her opinion, Ivan was more like Mundungus Fletcher than Bill Gates, conducting shady deals through "slight persuasion" (as Ivan described it), and smuggling items (trading goods, Ivan called it).
Ginny was right. Ivan was a creepy man.
The Ministry hunt for the missing Death Eaters – the Death Eaters that had fled when it became clear that the war was not in their favour – had not been very successful. Rumours were rampant, claiming that Bellatrix had reinstated herself as the "Dark Queen", and assembled a band of extremely loyal Death Eaters.
Ivan turned and his grey eyes met Hermione's. He gazed into the distance behind her, and his eyes widened in shock.
The next moment, two strong hands had closed themselves around Hermione's neck, and there was a rushing, compressed sensation as Hermione found herself in the dying throes of disapparition.
Hermione could not believe this was happening. It was the worst nightmare ever. She had never expected this to happen after Voldemort's demise.
There was no escape from this cold clammy cell. Ginny and she were trapped, trapped by the ropes that were tied around their hands, trapped by the seven Death Eaters interrogating them.
"Come, come," a Death Eater droned, "We know that Harry Potter is a friend of yours. Tell me, where is he?"
The Death Eater caressed his wand. Ginny was shuddering beside her.
"We told you, we don't know!" Hermione screamed again and again hysterically.
One Cruciatus followed another.
One of the Death Eaters suddenly stepped forward. Hermione drew back.
"Perhaps we should engage them in a more… pleasurable… interrogation," he hissed.
One more Death Eater stepped forward. Ginny was shivering. Hermione was struggling to breathe. They had no energy to protest anymore. Her skin was raw after so many curses cast upon them.
The Death Eater turned her over and pressed her against the cold wall. She could hear the chuckling from the other Death Eaters. A hard rod-like object pressed against her soft backside.
It pressed right into her, like a rod boring through her. She tried to wriggle away, but that only seemed to make the rod harder than ever. She heard Ginny screaming softly.
Make it stop, make it stop…
"Enjoying this, my dear?" the Death Eater breathed into her ear. His tongue was moving all over her neck like a slimy worm.
The door to the cell slammed open.
There were four consecutive green flashes followed by thuds of bodies hitting the ground. The Death Eaters holding her and Ginny against the wall turned, zipping their wands out.
Two more green flashes. Two more thuds.
Only the Death Eater that had held Hermione now remained. Hermione slumped to the ground, gasping. She dragged herself over the ground to hold a sobbing Ginny's hand, and looked up.
Ivan Kelgore was standing in the cell, holding the Death Eater against the wall with a single muscular hand. "Go," he muttered to Hermione and tossed her a locket, "It'll get you out of here."
Hermione grasped the locket, and half-carried Ginny out of the cell. They staggered out of the long corridor, which had contained their cell. The walls were almost brownish, coated with dirt accumulated over centuries. The torches cast an eerie yellow light over the corridor. Hermione and Ginny took out the locket. Suddenly a spell came whizzing from unexpected quarters. The locket broke into pieces. Hermione and Ginny sprinted, consuming every ounce of their energy, and plunging into a dark room.
Had the Death Eaters spotted them? Or had that been just a stray spell?
Ginny muttered to Hermione, "Lucky they didn't check our cloak pockets before interrogating us."
Ginny produced out a soft, silvery material from her pocket. Harry's Invisibility Cloak.
"The portkey's gone," Hermione muttered as soon as she pulled the cloak over both of them. They were both panting heavily. "We have but one option left. Follow Kelgore."
Lucius Malfoy breathed deeply as he slumped to the ground. The red-haired stranger had finally loosened the hold on his neck. He staggered back a few paces and raised his wand.
How had this man found them?
"It was quite easy sniffing out this location," the stranger said, "I had planned to attack this location later. Fortunately you managed to make me shift my plan ahead a few days, by capturing the two girls I know best in this world."
"Who are you?" Lucius hissed stepping back a few paces and raising his wand.
Before he knew it, Lucius' wand was blasted out of his hand.
"Even for a pureblood," the stranger hissed, "You're pathetic."
The stranger waved his own wand. The red hair shortened to form a messy black, wavy hair. The face changed. The eyes turned green.
Lucius staggered backwards. The green eyes were blazing. "What are you going to do, Potter? Kill me?" Lucius muttered defiantly.
"You attempted to rape two of my former friends, Lucius," Potter hissed, advancing upon Lucius, "Do you think I'll let you get away with mere death?"
Potter laughed hysterically. A green spiral erupted out of Potter's wand.
The same green spiral that his Master had used to torture traitors.
It made contact with his stomach.
Exquisite, immense pain.
It was as if his organs were burning. His senses vanished. It was as if he was an empty shell, filled with a single sensation, shrouding his brain and heart, and stretching his nerves to the limit.
His fingers were bent at an awkward angle as he screamed. He screamed and screamed and screamed. But there was no respite.
He was going to die.
And before he died, he was going to suffer like he never had.
Hermione and Ginny traced their way back. There was no sign of the Death Eaters that had ambushed them.
They turned a dark corner and gasped. There was a trail of corpses all over the corridor, which led away from their cell. Had Ivan killed all of them?
Hermione shuddered, at the trail. They trudged amongst the Death Eaters as softly as they could.
There was no need to tread softly amongst the corpses, but they did so anyway. At the end of the corridor, where the torchlight ended in front of a great pair of wooden doors, they saw two men grappling.
Ginny gasped silently. Hermione suddenly realised who Ivan Kelgore had been. She had been fooled by a glamour charm.
It had been Harry all along.
Harry held Peter Pettigrew against the wall. "Run away, Peter," he snarled, "Run as fast as your stubby legs can carry you. Run away and never let me see your face again. Do you understand?"
Peter nodded fervently and Harry let him go. There was a crack, and a greyish white rat scampered across the floor.
They saw Harry turn to face the great doors. There were serpents carved all over it.
It must have been Voldemort's secret headquarters. The headquarters where the renegade Death Eaters had camped.
The wooden doors slammed open to reveal a chamber. Harry entered it. Hermione and Ginny followed him into the chamber without making a sound.
A woman stood near a serpentine throne, her back turned to Harry. Her hair was tangled all over her shapely body, encased in a soft robe.
"Have the prisoners told you anything of use, Lucius?" Bellatrix's cackling voice echoed over the Hall.
"I thought you should know," Harry snarled, "Lucius died of internal organ failure."
Bellatrix turned whipping her wand out in alarm. Hermione flinched.
There was a bang, and Bellatrix was kneeling on the cold stone floor of the torch-lit chamber, clutching her bleeding wrist. Her wand lay on the floor, broken cleanly into two pieces.
Harry advanced upon her.
"Crucio," he muttered savagely.
Hermione saw the pain and rage in Harry's eyes. The woman writhing at his feet had taken a lot away from him. She could see the immense sorrow trapped within those emerald-green eyes.
How long, Harry held Bellatrix under the Cruciatus, Hermione did not know. All Hermione registered was Bellatrix's incessant screaming.
Harry finally lifted the curse. Bellatrix lay panting on the floor. She started laughing hysterically. The pain had muddled her brain.
A cruel smile twisted Harry's lips.
"Imperio," he hissed. Bellatrix's eyes blurred.
Harry whispered in her ear.
Bellatrix waved her hand over her throat and shouted, "All Death Eaters assemble at the base of the hillock outside the castle!"
Her voice resounded throughout the castle.
Harry lifted the Charm.
Bellatrix started laughing again.
"Sectumsempra Epidermo," Harry muttered, "Hope you like it."
Harry caressed Bellatrix's cheeks. "It's a pity something so beautiful had to go waste in such a tragic manner.
He stepped a few feet away from Bellatrix's kneeling form and looked at her amusedly.
Bellatrix started to scream. Her fingers clawed through the air, as if they were trying to shred her immense pain to nothingness.
Hermione's eyes flicked to Bellatrix's hands and she suddenly realised what was happening. From the faint gasp at her side, so had Ginny.
Her skin was peeling off.
Bellatrix's skin separated from her flesh, like a snake's coat when during the shedding season. Blood oozed from underneath. Her face started peeling off, revealing the flesh underneath.
Hermione could not take her eyes of the terrifying sight. This was worse than the Cruciatus, far too worse.
She watched in horror as the skin peeled off revealing the ugly layers of flesh underneath. Bellatrix screamed and retched. She was now a pink, fleshy entity, no longer human – a ghastly sight.
Blood oozed out of her raw flesh, as she screamed like there was no end to her torture.
Harry raised his wand again. The same green spiral. The same suffering inflicted before death, as Bellatrix's soul shattered into pieces along with her magical core, constricting her organs one by one until her entire body imploded.
Hermione watched the scene unfold, helpless and horror-struck. This was not the Harry she had known.
The Harry she had known was dead, perhaps a long time ago.
Harry left the chamber through a side door. Hermione and Ginny traipsed across the room as if in a horrible trance.
They stepped out into a graveyard, with huge, hulking tombstones. A small hillock rose over the graveyard, towering over it. The stars shone like diamonds etched into the sky.
Hermione suddenly registered that it was past sunset. It was a dark evening.
Nearly a hundred Death Eaters were assembled at the base of the hillock, their cloaks rustling as they shifted or moved.
Harry suddenly disapparated. Two strong hands pulled them down behind a tombstone.
Hermione gazed at two gleaming fangs and cold grey eyes. A vampire.
The vampire paused, and loosened his hold upon them. "You are not Death Eaters," he hissed, "Are you the two prisoners?"
Hermione nodded. The vampire must have sensed them through the Invisibility Cloak.
"Stay here. If you move, I'll rip your throat," the vampire rasped, and moved into the clearing.
Hermione raised her fearful eyes over the tombstone, and saw an astounding scene.
Nearly a hundred Death Eaters were standing at the base of the hillock gazing up at a shrouded figure at its summit. The Death Eaters were nearly fifty metres away from Hermione's tombstone.
She looked around. She saw the skulking forms of some kind of creature. And then, It struck her. Vampires, the same vampires that had aided the Forces of the Light during the siege on Hogwarts.
It looked as if they were surrounding the Death Eaters around the hillock, like a disastrous, bloodsucking net.
The summit suddenly shone with light. A few of the Death Eaters staggered backwards.
The figure at the base of the hillock was illuminated in all its terrifying glory.
The Death Eaters gasped. Some of them dislodged themselves from the compact circle around the hillock and tried to flee.
Two of them nearly approached Hermione's tombstone. The next second, they were lying on the ground, their throats ripped. Vampires. The net to catch the Death Eaters.
"I will give you just one chance," Harry's magically amplified voice echoed over the graveyard, "Surrender to the Ministry and live! Do not obey me, and die!"
Some of the Death Eaters laughed. They had not yet realised the presence of the vampires.
The Death Eaters swarmed over the hillock.
Hermione looked at the circle of vampires expecting them to attack. They retreated.
Hermione gasped. Were the vampires betraying Harry?
Suddenly Harry raised his wand. "SOLARUS!" he shrieked into the gathering darkness.
Harry's body appeared to be aflame. Hermione had read about the Solarus spell. It required an immense amount of magical power to fuel the spell. No wizard had been reported to use the spell in recent years; it could only be used by immensely powerful wizards. Hermione herself had used the minor version of the spell to kill Slughorn.
There had been rumours that Dumbledore had used the spell in the War against Grindelwald, but Dumbledore himself had never validated these rumours.
And now, the man she loved was using the same spell.
Harry's body seemed to erupt into a flaming ball. The Death Eaters were still swarming over the hill. There was a deafening boom, and then searing heat whipped across Hermione's face.
There was a flash of bluish white light, as a fireball erupted all over the hillock, streaming down towards the base.
And then, the night was restored to its pristine darkness. The light subsided. Harry advanced down the hillock, and approached a tombstone close to theirs.
The tall vampire that had seized Hermione and Ginny was seated on the tombstone casually, as if watching a mildly interesting movie.
The charred corpses of nearly a hundred Death Eaters littered the base of the hillock. Harry had murdered a hundred Death Eaters with a single curse. Hermione's mind was twitching with the horror and carnation she had witnessed.
This was a horrible, horrible nightmare.
Harry shook hands with the vampire. "I owe you and your brethren a lot," he murmured, "Thanks."
Ivan nodded. And then, he raised his wand.
The vampires disappeared.
"It is time to pay my dear godfather a visit," Harry murmured to himself.
Fur sprouted all over Harry's body as he morphed into a giant monstrous animal, plastered against the night sky, darker than the star-speckled sky.
Its fangs gleamed as it opened its humongous mouth and roared. Sorrow, grief, rage and frustration – all the emotions were rolled into a single awesome roar, blasting over the dark graveyard.
The beast melted into shadow.
Harry's last statement suddenly registered in Hermione's brain.
"Oh no," she whispered as she turned to Ginny, her eyes flying open in alarm, "We have to go to the Ministry."
Harry stood before the veil in the Department of Mysteries. The face of every single Death Eater he had killed flashed before his eyes. He was a weapon… a mere weapon… at most. He was nothing more. He was an empty shell, doomed to die from the beginning.
A yawning, gaping hole of self-pity surged within his chest, but he ignored it.
Tears splattered from his eyes, their twinkling dimmed now.
Sirius… Mom… Dad…
It was all over. He had no place in this world.
He fingered the cold, blue stone in his hand. The transporter.
He could feel its exquisite magical power, thrumming around his fingertips and caressing him.
Death, after all, was not so hard to come by.
The corporeal boggart waved its wand. Wisps of smoke suddenly emerged from the wand, threading their way towards Iris. She erected a shield but the wisps passed straight through. The moment they made contact with her body, they solidified into icy shards, embedded within her wondrous body.
Iris screamed, and collapsed, breathing heavily. Blood oozed out of her wounds. The icy stakes remained embedded in her body.
The boggart-Harry smiled, its lips curving in a cruel smile.
"No!" Harry screamed.
"Look at me, Harry. Look at me and despair. I'm more powerful than you can ever dream of being. I'm more powerful than you ever were," the boggart rasped in a hideously inhuman voice.
"Impossible", stammered Harry staggering away from the dreadful apparition.
"Not impossible. How, Harry, I wonder did you conjure a Patronus that could scare away a hundred dementors? Did you believe you were born with such immense power?" the boggart sneered.
Harry staggered until he was leaning against the wall.
The boggart smiled. "You see Harry, when Voldemort's Avada backfired, it actually transferred a part of him into you. That part has been eating away at you – the reason why your emotions have devolved. The reason why you began to talk Parseltongue so late in life. The reason why you summoned such a powerful Patronus in your third year.
"I merely let that part of Voldemort corpus magi take over. And now, I'm more powerful than ever. Give in to the Darkness, Harry."
Harry's eyes travelled to Iris' bloody body and his heart pulsed with rage. The blood pumped through his veins. Nothing mattered to him. He screamed in inhuman rage and frustration. His left hand grasped something cold and hard. With his right he cast a stunner, and he threw the object in his left hand simultaneously.
The boggart blocked the first spell, but the object Harry ad hurled penetrated straight through the shield, piercing his chest. The boggart screamed and dissolved into mist. All that remained on the ground was the object Harry had hurled at the boggart.
Harry's eyes widened with surprise. It was Gryffindor's sword.
He grasped the sword and knelt down beside Iris.
"You… are Gryffindor's heir, Harry… the sword will come when you need it most," Iris stammered, coughing out blood.
Tears splattered to the rough stone floor from Harry's eyes.
"Never give in to the darkness, Harry. Do not let… the dark… within you… t-t-… take over…"
More tears. A gaping pain in his chest. Immense sorrow.
"Promise me Harry… promise me, that you will never ever… ever… kill yourself."
"I promise," Harry whispered in a hushed tone, his brain momentarily jammed at the puzzling statement. Why would he ever kill himself?
Iris smiled. Her wand glowed blue. Harry started. He had just sworn a magical oath, after the Egyptian fashion.
He could not now, kill himself.
But why would he ever do that?
It was as if Iris had predicted the future. Could a dying woman do that?
Several times on the dark path he had taken, he had turned his wand upon himself, sliced his wrists and jumped off cliffs, but to no avail. He could not die if he killed himself.
He had gone beyond the path Dumbledore had dictated for him. He had gone beyond those prescribed tutors. After Snape, Harry had trained with some of the dodgiest creatures in the magical world. He had taken the darkest of paths.
And now, he was turning into another Dark Lord.
The veil fluttered gently, its voices hypnotising him and inviting him, to reach into its depths. The voices thrummed in his ears. He stepped atop the dais, climbing the steps one-by-one.
His heart pounded. This was not killing himself. The veil was almost like a living entity, pulsing with a rhythm of its own – a dark rhythm… the rhythmic footfalls of death.
He took a deep breath and plunged on recklessly.
Arthur Weasley felt the magical earthquake that resounded across the Ministry. He could tell it came from the Department of Mysteries. The desks and tables shook and vibrated as wave upon wave of magic crashed down upon them.
He straightened his hat and staggered down the steps leading down to the Department of Ministries. He almost dashed into Kingsley. "What just happened?" he asked the tall black Auror.
"I don't know. It's as if a powerful magical object or being just entered the Veil of Death," the Auror muttered.
The entered the chamber.
And they gasped. Every inch of the chamber – from the marble tiles on the floor to its torch-lit walls, was cracked, as if it had been pounded by a devastating burst of magic.
Perhaps it had.
They advanced up to the dais that supported the veil. It fluttered innocently in a non-existent breeze.
All that remained on the dais was a thirteen-and-a-half-inch long wand.
And somewhere in the astral beyond, trapped between interloping worlds, Arthur Weasley knew that the veil had swallowed a magical being. He only hoped the wizard who had stepped through it was finally at peace.
A/N: And so, the journey ends. I leave the rest to the reader's imagination.
Perhaps, Hermione and Ginny arrived just in time to prevent Harry from entering the Veil. Perhaps Harry stepped through the Veil, finding peace at last, in Death.
After all, did Harry have a thirteen-and-half-inch wand?