Hey everyone, I'm back! Man, this chapter fought me just about every step of the way! Anyway, a few things to answer.
nxkris mentioned that Harry spent a long, long time traveling Terra previously, so why didn't he have more than just Quetz, GF-wise? Harry didn't bother collecting any of them, as he wasn't sure what would happen to them when he transferred back to Earth. Besides, he was a bit preoccupied with finding Odin.
Next, mountainelements. You asked why it was rated M? I rated it that way just for safety, cuz there will eventually be some lemons. Not yet, but eventually. There are also some disturbing themes that I have in mind for later installments. Also, you're absolutely right, I spaced about Harry changing the password to the Chamber, I'll go back and fix that soon.
There are too many reviews for me to answer them all... but I've only now noticed just how popular my story is becoming. It seems like I get a new author, story and/or favorite story alert every day! I'm honored, guys. Thanks for your reviews!
Disclaimer: I'm posting here, what does that say about my owning of Harry Potter? I don't!
Chapter 10 – Dreams, Nightmares, Everything Between
Earth, Scotland, Hogwarts, Headmaster's Office
"I propose an alliance."
Minerva turned ash-grey. Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived, is allying with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named?! Is he out for vengeance against the one who held him back? Are we now dealing with not only two Lord Voldemorts, but a Dark Lord Potter?
Severus was now very glad he had had the forethought to cast the spell to ensure his heart kept beating. I knew that when it comes to Harry Potter, life is full of shocks, but first there are TWO Dark Lords, and now an alliance?! He looked at Dumbledore, half-hoping that the old man would die of a heart attack himself.
No such luck. Albus Dumbledore was shocked, but then his eyes narrowed. I should have guessed… Not for nothing was he the grandmaster, and the leader of the war against Voldemort during his first rising. The ancient battle strategy of divide and conquer… well played.
Terra, Time-Compressed World, Ultimecia's Throne Room
"I propose an alliance."
The silence following that statement was deafening. Even the wind seemed still as Harry assessed the reaction on Voldemort's face. For a moment, he even seemed human, as his murderous crimson eyes faded in intensity and his face reflected sheer astonishment.
The fragment of Tom Riddle's soul in the locket knew immediately that Voldemort would accept the no-doubt temporary alliance, if only to remove the locket from Ultimecia. By removing the locket, Ultimecia would immediately fall unconscious, and Tom Riddle would be once again helpless, anchoring Voldemort to the mortal plain. No! This cannot happen! I refuse to go back to sitting helplessly for all eternity! Voldemecia threw up his arm and drew on the immense power of the Sorceress he inhabited. "Avada Kedavra!"
Unfortunately for him, Harry was well aware that Voldemecia would attack him once the implications set in, and dove to the left and back out of the way of the Killing Curse with his junction-enhanced speed. He rolled to his feet once again and shot out his left hand – the one not holding his gunblade. "Firaga!" As a testament to Harry's prowess with this particular spell, it was not as most people expect. Instead of the absolutely enormous fireball three times the size of Hagrid as most SeeD would expect, this one was only moderate size – approximately as tall and as wide as Hagrid himself - but its color was not the reddish orange of most fire. No, Harry had condensed the fire, making it burn brighter and hotter… this fire was blue. As a result of the reduced size as well, it shot forward much faster than a normal Firaga would.
Voldemecia drew on Ultimecia's Sorceress powers once more, discovering the way to deal with this threat. "Reflect!" The incredibly hot blue flames licked at Ultimecia's body even as the ruby crystalline barrier appeared to protect him. It was a close thing, but the Reflect spell managed to redirect the Firaga back towards Harry. However, the Reflect spell had broken in the process.
Harry smirked, and dashed into the intensely magical flames. Thanks to his junctions, the magical fire that engulfed him was hot, but not so hot as to burn him if he left quickly. Let's do it! He ran low to the ground, his sword held parallel to the ground at his right, and erupted from the flames. Far too fast for Voldemecia's liking, Harry was suddenly right in front of her, and his gunblade was coming around to slice Ultimecia's body in two!
:No! I will not let this happen!: Ultimecia's voice echoed in her head. Suddenly her arms rose outside of the locket Horcrux's will. "Protect!"
Harry gunblade slammed into a sudden magical barrier designed against physical damage, jarring his arm from the sudden stop of momentum. In the few milliseconds that followed, he looked up and saw Ultimecia's natural eyes, not Voldemort's blood red. Oh fuck.
Make that a double-fuck. That was Harry's last thought before the non-elemental orb of destruction slammed into him and carried him into the stone wall. The spell expanded into an enormous sphere, and then imploded with Harry within. He fell to the ground, breathing heavily in pain as he bled from several lacerations. Ow. That REALLY hurt.
"Curaga!" a voice rang out, and Harry suddenly felt completely restored. He looked up and his friends had surrounded him. Rinoa smiled at him, obviously the source of the healing spell.
"Thanks guys…" Harry murmured as he got up. He dusted himself off. "Time to show you just how I got my reputation around here." He glanced at Voldemort, who had stepped back so as not to be involved in the confrontation. Voldemort, feeling Harry's sight upon him, looked back steadily, calculatingly.
He's withholding judgment… he probably wants to finish us both off when we're tired. Harry had expected no less. I knew that was a possibility once I proposed the alliance. Voldemort can't stand the idea of James Potter somehow still living. However, if I'm about to take out one of the worst threats to his power, he won't interfere. He smiled predatorily. Perfect.
Harry refocused his sights on Ultimecia – who had apparently healed herself during the small respite – and prepared himself for attack. Ultimecia met his gaze steadily and straightened, summoning her Sorceress power once again.
Within Ultimecia's Head
"How strange…" Tom Riddle's voice echoed within the bizarre mindscape of the Sorceress. He was in a green field, with clear blue skies. Behind him was a simple black door, standing on its own. However, once Tom took a second look, the door had something engraved on it. Tom leaned in to peer at it, and recognized it as the accursed locket that had held him for all these years.
"Hmm… if I had to hazard a guess, I'd say that door would take me back into the locket." Of course, Tom had no inclination to return anytime in the near future. "Might as well take a look around."
Tom stepped away from the door and looked around. The field was vast, stretching as far as the eye could see in every direct – "Wait! What's that?" He could see something in the distance, something quite large if it was as far as it looked… which may or may not be the case, given the abilities of magic, Tom admitted.
Not wanting to risk alerting Ultimecia to the fact that he was in her head, Tom didn't dare use magic to get himself to the phenomenon. He began walking.
Earth, Scotland, Hogwarts, Headmaster's Office
Albus, Severus and Minerva were practically sitting on the edge of their seats, watching as Harry Potter's own fireball was shot back at him, and then gaping as the Boy-Who-Just-Wouldn't-Die reappeared from within the flames and prepared to turn his opponent into sashimi.
While Severus and Minerva were staring with eyes wide at the sudden magical barrier appearing at the last possible moment, Dumbledore was watching Potter's face. He alone saw the glimpse of recognition within Potter's eyes.
Severus watched as Potter was blasted into the wall and then imploded upon by the enormous power of Ultima. "That… is a truly terrifying spell."
No… Tom Riddle would not have used that spell. He would have used the Cruciatus, to make Potter kneel in pain at his feet at such close range. He has already proven that he can use the Killing Curse wandlessly in that body, so why has his tastes changed? "Something is wrong," Albus suddenly said. "Mr. Potter is facing two or more entities in the same body."
"What?" Minerva gasped.
"Look at how that woman is standing now. Her stance was different before that Protect spell. Before, when Riddle was in control, his right arm was raised as though he were holding a wand lazily. His elbow was bent for maximum wand mobility while also appearing regal and more powerful," Albus pointed out. "Now, she is using both arms, and both are straight out. I think the original owner of that body is back in control."
"The question is," Severus began, watching as Potter was healed by the raven-haired woman in blue, "is that a good thing, or a bad thing?"
Terra, Time-Compressed World, Ultimecia's Throne Room
"Flare!" Ultimecia screamed at Harry, who once again just let it hit him. His elemental defense junction was being pressed to its limit by the extreme power in the Fire-Ice-Electric spell.
Harry spent a moment gathering his own spell. "Quake!" The spell made the entire castle shudder and groan, and the rocks they stood on shook. However, instead of knocking the Sorceress off balance, she just started floating in the air with a silent Float spell. With a growl, Harry cast one on himself as well, barely dodging the Pain spell sent his way next.
Harry rushed at Ultimecia and swung his gunblade again, diagonally to the left and down. "Protect!" Ultimecia cast, using the same defense as before. However, this time, Harry was prepared, and pulled the trigger on his gunblade at the exact moment before it hit. With Flare still junctioned to his elemental attack, the energy explosion affected Ultimecia's lower left arm and hand even though Harry's gunblade did not connect. As before with Voldemort, Ultimecia's skin was burned, then frozen and electrified. Blood would not flow as quickly as before into the area, and she would have trouble using it for a time.
Ultimecia glared daggers at Harry, who merely smirked, having jumped back after landing his attack. "Next time don't just use a physical defense against a gunblade!" he mocked.
"Gravija!" Ultimecia retaliated, and Harry cursed as the spell, being of an area affect, caught him and multiplied gravity on him, sending him to his knees and making it harder for him to breath for a precious few seconds.
"Regen!" Harry cast on himself, feeling his tendons and bones begin to knit and heal, giving him the strength to get out of the field of effect just fast enough to avoid a Death spell that would have hit him in the face. "I refuse to die here!" Harry yelled as he felt that familiar energy once more surging through him. Limit Break! He raised his gunblade, and then brought out one of the first Limit Breaks he had ever used. "Shining Star!" He cut five times in the shape of a five-pointed star, and each slash created an enormous blood red wave of energy.
Ultimecia managed to dodge the first one, but the second wave clipped her in the ankle. She stumbled, and the other three hit her straight on, leaving deep lacerations on her torso. She fell to her knees bleeding heavily, and brought up her magic. "Curaga! Regen!"
However, the few seconds needed for the powerful Sorceress to cast the two Advanced spells were more than enough for Harry to continue his onslaught. Ultimecia saw a shadow cover her, and looked up in time to see Harry descending from above, his gunblade held across his body in such a way that he could make an extremely wide – and undoubtedly lethal – horizontal slash.
Ultimecia now was in a very dangerous quandary – if she used Protect, Potter would trigger the gunblade's special explosive ability again. If she used Shell, then Potter could simply cut her in half. There wasn't enough time for any magical attack powerful enough to halt him, and she highly doubted that this powerful warrior wouldn't have taken steps against being afflicted by status ailments.
No choice. Ethereal pure white wings sprouted from Ultimecia's back as she jumped backwards, flapping once to give her the extra boost she needed to evade Potters's slash.
Harry landed on his knees and looked up with a grimace and narrowed eyes. I knew it. He stood up and looked directly into Ultimecia's eyes. "That confirms my suspicions then… Rinoa." The brief flash of emotion that Harry gleaned from Ultimecia using Legilimency only confirmed it further.
"I should have known you'd recognize me, Harry." Ultimecia said with a depreciating laugh.
"Wait!" Voldemort roared in fury. "You're Harry Potter?!"
Harry returned his eyes and scar to normal and nodded at the Dark Lord with a smirk. "Yep. Sure had you fooled. Seriously, you killed my father personally. How did you ever think I was him?"
Voldemort, with much effort, reigned in his rage and merely scowled. "Well played, I must admit," he said grudgingly. "You played on your resemblance to your father, used some sort of Aging Potion to look similar to when I killed him, and then used an illusion to hide your scar and eye color. The shock of seeing my foe supposedly alive again despite my Killing Curse led me to make assumptions about what I could expect from you, only to be continually surprised. A very cunning plan, worthy of Slytherin himself."
Harry bowed lightly in his direction. "Why, thank you. That means a great deal, coming from the Heir of Slytherin himself." He turned to Ultimecia. "Tell me, why are you doing this? Why Time Compression?"
Ultimecia's eyes hardened and she opened her mouth to answer… and then fell to the ground, screaming.
In Ultimecia's Head
"Finally!" Tom muttered. It felt like it had been days in this never-changing world, but he had made it to what he had seen earlier. It was an enormous door, almost twenty feet tall, obviously not well taken care of. It was splintering and seemed very flimsy. Whole chunks of it had apparently been ripped off and hastily repaired. A much worn symbol of infinity was engraved on the door itself, and Tom sat down to contemplate what it meant.
"Infinity? Maybe eternal life?" Frustrated, Tom got back up. "What am I doing?! I am the Dark Lord Voldemort! Feared by all! I'm going to break down this door, no matter what's behind it! I am the strongest!" With that, he whipped out his wand. "Bombarda!"
The door shattered, and almost before he knew it, Tom was swept up in a maelstrom of magic.
Terra, Time-Compressed World, Ultimecia's Throne Room
Ultimecia's screams of pain heightened in pitch and intensity as a royal purple magic leaked out of her, forming a constantly shifting aura. Voldemort and Harry both took steps back, wands at the ready. "Potter! You know more about this world than I, what's going on?!" Voldemort yelled over the screams, noting curiously that Ultimecia almost appeared under the Cruciatus Curse, as she writhed and screamed.
"Don't know yet!" Harry was quickly assessing all the possible options, and then had the bright idea of using Scan. He quickly jabbed his wand at Ultimecia. Scan!
Ultimecia (Rinoa Heartilly)
Weapon of choice: Magic
Ultimecia, a future form of Rinoa, has developed her Sorceress powers to heights heretofore unseen by SeeD, allowing her to manipulate the fabric of space and time. However, the cost for this power appears to have been costly – her Sorceress power is now so potent, that Ultimecia's body and mind cannot handle channeling large quantities of it for any significant length of time.
Due to unknown reasons, Sorceress power is overflowing from her body, and is super-charging her nervous system to the point where everything, including her own internal body movements, are excruciatingly painful. Approaching Ultimecia is extremely unwise – the Sorceress magic surrounding her is extremely chaotic and malevolent, and will likely strike at anyone and anything within reach.
Sorceress Power – a seemingly unlimited supply of magic
Threat level – 70
While Harry was absorbing this information, Voldemort's patience for the woman's screams had reached its limit. It was hurting his ears, and while he enjoyed torturing others, it was only fun if one gave the victim just enough of a respite not to go insane, just enough to make the victim beg for mercy or death. "Enough of your screaming, woman! Avada Kedavra!"
"No!" Harry's warning came too late. Voldemort's sickly green Killing Curse rocketed at Ultimecia, and impacted the aura. To Voldemort's surprise, the aura absorbed the spell. To Harry's shock, the aura appeared to do nothing else to retaliate… until he noticed that the hairs on his body were standing straight up. Static electricity. That means… lightning! Harry dove to the side, just in time as an enormous lightning strike lanced the ground where he'd been just a moment before. While he was supposedly immune to magically charged elemental attacks thanks to his numerous junctioned Reflect spells, it eventually came down to how strong the attack was. Theoretically, enough magic in an attack could overwhelm his resistance, and against the virtually unlimited amount available to a Sorceress, Harry didn't feel like chancing it.
Hoping that Voldemort had been caught in a similar lightning strike, Harry looked at where he had last seen the Dark Lord, only to see him leaning backwards, wand held straight up to support a shield, against which lightning was striking repeatedly. So much for lightning never striking the same place twice, Harry quipped mentally. He looked back at the Sorceress magic, noting that Ultimecia had finally gone silent. Whether that was from her throat being too damaged to work, she'd lost consciousness, or if her mind had finally snapped, Harry was unsure.
The dark violet-hued magic had sent three tendrils towards Voldemort – one tendril in the center with one to the left and one to the right. Harry frowned, especially as the tendrils started doing something. The center created an orb of electricity, while the one on the left created a fiery sphere. Wait, this is too familiar. Finally, to Harry's horrified realization, the one on the right conjured an orb of water. It's creating a portal spell! Where is it trying to send Voldemort? It doesn't matter, I can't let it send him somewhere where he can gain strength and God knows what kind of powers!
Harry gathered his magic, preparing to do what most would call unbelievably stupid. Raw magic, when being shaped, was extremely hazardous to disrupt, often causing some sort of magical backlash, usually explosions of sheer, nigh-irreversible chaos. The more powerful the magic, the more dangerous causing a disruption was. The creation of wands and magical foci on Earth negated much of the danger, as the magic was then shaped within the wands themselves before being released. It was actually this danger that prompted the creation of staves, which over time evolved into the modern day wand – too many people had lost control of their magic when shaping it for some powerful spell.
Portal magic is incredibly powerful, especially powered by the Sorceress magic. I hope I live through this, Harry thought to himself grimly. With luck, both Ultimecia and Voldemort will be killed. Now I have to wait for the opportune moment… No sooner had he thought it, but the purplish vortex of swirling portal energy started to manifest. Now! Harry thrust his gunblade into the ground and threw both arms forward, palms extended outwards. Adrenaline and magic coursed through him, his body shaking from the sheer power of the spell he was calling. "ULTIMA!"
Earth, Scotland, Hogwarts, Headmaster's Office
Albus, Severus and Minerva were watching with wide eyes, gaping jaws, on the edge of their seats and they watched the two powerhouses go at it. When they saw Ultimecia narrowly avoid Harry's would-be-lethal slash by sprouting wings, the Transfiguration Professor shook her head. "No wonder he was never astonished by anything… Harry must have seen…"
"…and fought!" Severus interjected.
"… and fought," Minerva conceded, "things beyond even our imagination."
"He is quite formidable," Albus agreed with a frown hidden by his beard. Too formidable. He would give Tom or I quite a fight. I wonder why he did not try to assert his superiority here at Hogwarts, instead of stealthily trying to go around under my nose?
"That confirms my suspicions then… Rinoa."
"Rinoa?" Severus murmured. "How does he know her? And how did he not recognize her until now?"
"Hush, Severus, and we may find out," Albus chided.
"I should have known you'd recognize me, Harry."
"Wait!" Voldemort roared in fury. "You're Harry Potter?!"
"Yep. Sure had you fooled. Seriously, you killed my father personally. How did you ever think I was him?"
Minerva stifled a laugh behind a cough, while Severus was aghast at Potter's cheek. Albus's eyes twinkled in amusement, and calculation. Well, at least I don't need to worry about them teaming up against me.
"Well played, I must admit," Voldemort grudgingly stated. "You played on your resemblance to your father, used some sort of Aging Potion to look similar to when I killed him, and then used an illusion to hide your scar and eye color. The shock of seeing my foe supposedly alive again despite my Killing Curse led me to make assumptions about what I could expect from you, only to be continually surprised. A very cunning plan, worthy of Slytherin himself."
The Professors watched Potter bow lightly in his direction. "Why, thank you. That means a great deal, coming from the Heir of Slytherin himself." Potter turned to Rinoa. "Tell me, why are you doing this? Why Time Compression?"
Suddenly, the audio cut off, and the visual wavered. Taking the opportunity to learn more of what was going on, Minerva turned to Albus only to see his rapidly paling face. "What's Time Compression?" Severus listened even as his eyes continued to scan the wavering magical image.
"It's an ancient idea," Albus began hesitatingly. "I myself have only heard of it once or twice in my entire lifetime, and both of them were when I was searching for ways to stop Grindelwald. As you know, Time-Turners allow people to travel back in time to a limited extent. However, Time Compression is based on the idea of pulling two times together so they, and all the time in between, exist at once." He conjured a feather, and then burnt it. "If we were to compress the time from my conjuration to the burning, that feather would have both been burnt and not burnt at once, trapped in a flux from moment to moment based on our perception of it."
"A dangerous idea," Minerva whispered.
"Exceedingly," Albus agreed. "In Time Compression, just about anything you can dream up could be possible. For instance, there could be two, three, or even an infinite number of anyone as there are an infinite number of instances between two times. I could exist as a babe, a teenager, in my prime, or even on my deathbed, depending on my own perception. Death itself could be undone as it both happened and did not happen. As it's never happened in our world – and I hope it never does happen – we have no idea. I would hazard a guess, however, that it is due to Time Compression that Voldemort regained his body. It would explain why we never found it after the Potters were killed."
"Albus!" Severus exclaimed, and both Albus and Minerva turned their attention back to the mirror that was showing Harry's battle on Terra.
"What'd we miss?" Albus asked urgently.
"This Rinoa person started screaming and collapsed, purple magic started leaking everywhere, and the Dark Lord tried to kill her. The Killing Curse was absorbed, not rebounded, and then the purple magic retaliated. Potter just dodged a lightning bolt, and the Dark Lord is magically shielding himself from repeated lightning strikes," Severus summarized.
"What are those purple tendrils of magic doing?" Minerva asked, pointing out the three portions of magic making their way to Voldemort, creating fire, water and electricity.
"I'm not sure," Albus admitted.
"Look at Potter!" Severus yelled, and the three of them immediately saw the Boy-Who-Lived start to glow gently.
"He's gathering enormous amounts of magic, to be able to call up an aura," Albus observed. "But what spell requires that much?"
Suddenly the image recovered to perfect clarity, and the audio aspect reappeared just in time for them to hear… "ULTIMA!"
Terra, Time-Compressed World, Ultimecia's Throne Room
A moment ago… "ULTIMA!" Harry screamed, both arms shaking from the force of his spell.
The orb of destruction materialized at his hands and rocketed towards the swirling unstable portal that the Sorceress magic was creating. Under Harry's command, the Ultima spell exploded on contact, unleashing all the chaotically devastating magical power within.
A split second later, Harry found himself hurtling backwards, magically super-heated air burning all his exposed skin. He could feel it starting to blister, which almost made him open his reflexively-closed eyes in shock. It's too strong! My junctioned elemental defense isn't enough! At the same time though, he smiled through the pain. If it's so strong that it's burning even through my defenses, even when I was further away from the source of the explosion, then there's no way Voldemort and Ultimecia survived.
With that thought, Harry slammed into a wall and crumpled down to the floor. Suddenly the searing heat was gone, and Harry opened his eyes to see Zell in front of everyone, cheering on… a strange green creature with a ruby in its head. The ruby was glowing, and there was a wall of crimson separating a fiery inferno from Harry's group. "Carbuncle," Harry realized. Good choice, Zell. Carbuncle's specialty is magical defense.
"Harry!" everyone, save Zell, cried out. Zell twisted his head around and gave him a thumbs up, and Harry smiled weakly as he got to his feet.
"Curaga!" came several voices – Squall, Rinoa, Selphie, Irvine and Quistis.
Harry felt refreshed as his burns and blisters healed in seconds, and stood strong. "Much better. Thanks guys."
Next thing he knew, he was back down on the floor, his cheek stinging from the force of a slap. "WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!" Daphne roared.
"Daphne, what's wrong?" Ginny asked.
"This fool PURPOSELY cast extremely high level destructive magic into the center of unstable magic!" Daphne accused.
"So what if I did?!" Harry challenged. "You saw how bad I was affected, do you really think Ultimecia and Voldemort survived that when they were closer than I was?!"
"Wait, wait, hold up for a minute. Harry, Daphne, what's the significance of casting magic into the middle of unstable magic?" Hermione asked, confused. Everyone else listened in as well – no one had any idea.
"It's dangerous," Harry began slowly.
Daphne snorted. "Dangerous! That's an understatement if there ever was one! Go on Harry, tell her what you did!"
Harry was feeling quite nervous and got the impression that he was going to be reamed out by everyone, but didn't have much choice in the matter. "Well, er…" He sighed from his sitting up position on the ground. "Unstable magic is just that – unstable. Chaotic, even. When magic is in the process of forming something, creating a purpose, it's extremely… reactive. As in, think oil meets fire reactive. When already-formed magic of one source interacts with unstable magic of another source, the result is unpredictable and often very dangerous."
Harry glanced at Daphne, who merely glared at him. He sighed again and prepared himself. "I cast my most powerful, most destructive piece of magic into an unstable mass of magic that was turning into a portal. It could have done anything from change where the portal was going to, made it jumbo-sized, or even sucked everything within a certain radius inside. However, with the sheer amount of magic and the destructive nature of my spell, an explosion was a better bet."
"So, you were basically standing at almost ground zero for what you knew was going to be something extremely dangerous and potentially lethal?" Hermione summarized.
"Pretty much." And once again, Harry's head whipped to the side from the force of a slap, this time from Hermione's hand.
"How DARE you risk your life like that! You don't get to sacrifice yourself for the sake of everyone!" Ginny raged, and though Harry knew he should have seen it coming, he saw tears threatening to stream from her eyes.
"How do you think we would have felt if you had died saving us?!" Theo demanded.
"You have to understand," Quistis murmured quietly, "Harry is SeeD. Like all SeeD, we have been trained to be loyal to our Garden, and do whatever is necessary to ensure the safety of the masses."
"Harry had the opportunity and the means to end this conflict while keeping those he cared about alive," Squall added. "He did what he felt he had to do."
"Hey everyone? If Ultimecia's dead, then why is Time still compressed?" Selphie's voice asked worriedly. The world began to fade, and then everything went dark. "Never mind!"
"Um, not that I'm complaining, but how can I still see all you guys?" Zell inquired.
"To be honest, I have no idea," Harry replied. There's no light source, just everything seems dark. "Wait, what's that?"
There were two figures floating towards them. One was an ashen grey Voldemort, who appeared to be either unconscious or dead. Voldemort's garb was almost completely destroyed, his chest completely bare and the remnants of his sleeves barely clinging to his wrists. His pants had become very ragged-looking shorts, looking as though they could be torn off at any moment. However, what made the non-SeeD members turn away was that Voldemort's skin was in much the same condition as his clothes – slashed, ripped away in places, and badly burned. Blood was still oozing from the numerous wounds, though not strongly – his heart had obviously stopped. Definitely dead, Harry thought to himself smugly.
The other was a barely-alive, badly burned, semi-conscious Ultimecia. Harry flicked his wand and muttered, "Mobilicorpus," and Ultimecia began floating next to him. Hermione was about to the same for Voldemort, but Blaise and Daphne both grasped her hand, stopping her.
"What?" Hermione asked, confused.
"There's no point in bringing Voldemort with us, especially since he's dead," Daphne told her bluntly.
"Think, Hermione," coaxed Blaise. "Voldemort has been dead for twelve long years. If we bring his body back, then we will be implicated to the disappearance of the body from when he killed Harry's parents, possibly for resurrecting him."
"But we would have only been a year old at the time, if that!" Hermione protested. "With Harry's status as the Boy-Who-Lived, why would anyone believe that?"
"Hermione." Theo's voice was solemn. "You're living in a world of magic now. With magic at our beck and call, it's not hard to make things appear logical. My father used to tell me that Minister Fudge makes decisions based on who lines his pockets with gold, and what will help keep him in power. He'll use the panic at seeing Voldemort's dead body, one that hasn't decomposed after twelve years of being gone. He'll jump to conclusions, and take advantage of the public fear to smear our names into the ground with the Ministry-owned Daily Prophet."
"B-b-but…!" Hermione stuttered in outrage. "How can anyone be so corrupt?!"
"He's a politician," Harry said simply, as if that explained everything. "Power corrupts, and …"
"… absolute power corrupts absolutely," Hermione finished with a sigh, lowering her wand. "Yes, of course, you're right."
"Besides," Ginny piped up with a particularly vengeful look on her face. "He deserves a very ignoble end. His body left lying in a timeless void forever, sounds fitting doesn't it?"
Harry smirked at her. "I like the way you think. Only problem is, what about his remaining Horcruxes back on our world? And what happened to his soul fragments here? I doubt he simply ceased to exist," he said worriedly.
"It's impossible to say at this point," Hermione replied, running a hand through her hair. "None of us know any magic that deals with the soul. For all we know, because Voldemort's Horcrux here was probably destroyed in the explosion, and Voldemort's body is now incapable of supporting life, his soul fragments here did cease to exist. Or they could still be here in this void looking for a way out. Or maybe they merged, found a way out and back to our world."
"Best we can do is go destroy his other Horcruxes to ensure that none of them can bring back another version of Voldemort," Theo agreed.
"If this one somehow survives and starts causing trouble, word will reach us and we'll handle things then, right?" Ginny proposed. "In the meantime, let's go home. I'm starving!"
"Sounds like a plan!" Zell exclaimed, making Harry and his wizarding friends jump – they'd completely forgotten about Squall's gang.
"But how do we go home? Click our heels three times and say 'There's no place like home?'" Daphne asked sarcastically.
"That might work," Rinoa responded innocently, "but I think we'd be better off if we just focus on the time and place we want to be in. Now that Ultimecia's magic is dissipating, if we do that, we should end up back where we started."
"I'll take Ultimecia," Squall told Harry, who nodded and released his spell. Everyone closed their eyes, and after several moments, Harry could feel it working. He could feel himself, and all his friends being pulled to their time. With a flash of light, they arrived at Edea's Orphanage, all outside by a large tree.
"Where's Squall?!" Rinoa's voice cried out.
"He must not have made it here!" Quistis replied, almost as panicked as Rinoa.
"I refuse to have gone through this much and not have him back! He promised me that if we were ever separated, we would meet here in the fields! He promised!" Rinoa ranted, tears forming in her eyes. She clutched Griever, the ring that Squall had given her so long ago, and her Sorceress wings emerged. "SQUALL!"
There was another flash of light, and Squall appeared right in front of her, looking slightly confused. "I'm back?"
"You're back!" Rinoa threw her arms around Squall's neck and hugged him, her tears falling freely.
"Um, dude? Where's Ultimecia?" Irvine pointed out.
"She died a long time ago in this very place," Squall told everyone.
"You're not making sense! What happened?!" Selphie demanded.
"Well, remember when we were all kids and I ran out that one day for a while? Not too long after Ellone left? I ended up then, with Ultimecia, and Ultimecia gave Matron her Sorceress powers right before dying at my feet," Squall explained. "But we may have a problem…"
"What is it?" Harry asked.
"Ultimecia said something weird as she gave her powers to Matron. 'My power may be mostly taken by that parasite, but what I have left, I bestow upon you.'"
Harry blinked. "Parasite? That must've been the locket Horcrux. But oh well, the locket's gone, either destroyed or somewhere in that timeless void we just left."
Squall relaxed. "Yeah, you're right."
Suddenly, Theo started chuckling, then outright laughing his head off. Although no one knew the reason why, the laughter was infectious, and soon everyone had been overcome by hilarity, lying on the grass.
"We just saved two worlds!" Daphne finally managed to get out.
"I know, hard to believe," Ginny murmured, her laughter dying off. "Was it just three days ago that I was back at Hogwarts, learning Occlumency and figuring out that Dumbledore is not just the kindly old grandfather figure he portrays?"
"A lot happens in a short time, ne?" Harry agreed.
"So many years of fearing that Voldemort would somehow return… and then he does, and we kill him in three days!" Blaise whispered in awe. "What does that say about his first rise?"
"That the people in your world are pansies," Zell told him, somehow managing to keep a solemn voice. Everyone laughed at that, even Squall.
"In their defense, I had to go almost all out to hurt him," Harry admitted. "And I've trained for years simply for the purpose of getting stronger, faster, better. Voldemort would've seemed almost impossible for anyone without an ungodly level of power to match."
"Shouldn't we be getting home?" Hermione queried. "I mean, we have to get home sometime."
"Yeah, we should go sometime, but that time doesn't have to be now," Theo pointed out. "Admit it, it's nice to be able to relax like this, looking up at the warm sky, the sun beating down on your face, and not have to worry about whether our Occlumency shields are fully up, or about classwork, or anything. We deserve a nice, small vacation away from Dumbledore. I mean, we just saved the bloody world!"
"Hmm, you've got a point," Hermione conceded.
Several minutes passed in comfortable silence before the SeeD minus Harry got up and dusted themselves off. "We're gonna go see Edea and Cid. See ya later!" Selphie informed them as they left. Feeling lazy, the wizards and witches smiled and waved from their positions on the ground. They lay there for a long while, watching clouds go by.
"When we leave for our world, will you be returning with us?"
There was silence as everyone awaited an answer. When the silence stretched out to a minute, Harry's friends sat up and looked at him. "Harry?"
"… I don't know…"
Damn, there must have been at least three different occasions I could left this chapter, all of them being cliffhangers. Anyway, the chapter's a bit shorter than most by a few pages, but I don't think anyone minds. I'll be making shorter chapters now - 20 pages per chapter is rather difficult to maintain. Hope I kept the interactions honest - it's hard to keep track of so many main characters at once in one place. I mean, let's count. Squall, Rinoa, Zell, Selphie, Quistis, Irvine, Hermione, Ginny, Blaise, Daphne, Theo, Harry, Voldemort, Ultimecia...
I thoroughly enjoyed writing the reactions of Snape, McGonagall and Dumbledore - I like to think it gives added insight into their personalities, and it's amusing to cross reference the canon Snape with mine. "Potter! 20 points from Gryffindor!" "That... is a truly terrifying spell."
Anyway, read and review!