Death Eater No More—Chapter One (The Battle)

(Author's Note: Although this story can stand alone, it will utilize unique characters I created in I, Too, Shall Follow. It will also draw on events and facts from that story and The Beginnings of a Death Eater. Let us begin.)

His blood and silvery blue memories draining from him, Severus Snape lay on the cold wooden floor of the Shrieking Shack, his hand clinging to Potter's robes as he prayed that the idiot boy would know what to do with them. He thought he saw Potter using his wand to move the memories into a flask, the first intelligent thing he could recall the boy ever doing.

Employing a gargantuan effort, he whispered to the boy, "Look…at…me."

The green eyes, Lily's eyes, looked into his, and for a moment Severus forgot it wasn't her. All the animosity, the frustration…the pain…vanished. Then, enfeebled from blood loss, Snape's hand fell back onto the floor, landing upon the wand he'd dropped earlier. Automatically his fingers curled around it, clenching it in his fist.

The horrid high voice of Lord Voldemort pierced the air, and what little blood was left in his veins caused his heart to leap. Harry jumped to his feet, understandably shaken, beside the Weasley and Granger brats. The three children stood like statues listening to the megalomaniac ramble on, then they rushed away.

Damn you, Severus wanted to shout after them, and would have if his torn throat would have allowed it. At least Hermione, the least dull of the three, could have tried her hand at healing him! Were they all actually thick enough to believe him dead? Then again, they were Gryffindorks; thinking wasn't their strong suit.

With every bit of strength left in him, which was virtually none, Snape sluggishly lifted his wand, rested his arm across his chest, and aimed it at his throat. He clumsily scratched it over the surface of his neck while thinking the healing incantations. Once, twice, thrice he drew it across his neck, unable to see or feel exactly where it was needed. He did, however, feel the heartening sensation of wounds closing.

Panting from this small exertion, Severus dropped his hand to the floor with a 'clunk' as his knuckles struck the wood. With his other hand he ever so slowly reached into the pocket of his robe and fumbled around until his fingers grasped the bezoar he'd carried with him for no less than eighteen years; being a potions master—a paranoid one—had seen to that. Painstakingly slowly he raised it to his mouth, and although he didn't know how much venom Nagini had injected, it was always best to be prudent. It hurt like a rabid squirrel in his throat going down, but he forced it nonetheless. He was used to pain.

"…Now listen closely, Severus. There will come a time—after my death—do not argue, do not interrupt! There will come a time when Lord Voldemort will seem to fear for the life of his snake."

"For Nagini?" Snape looked astonished.

"Precisely. If there comes a time when Lord Voldemort stops sending that snake forth to do his bidding, but keeps it safe beside him under magical protection, then, I think, it will be safe to tell Harry."

"Tell him what?"

Severus swallowed hard in his raw throat. His wand had healed the skin and blood vessels, yet another spell would be needed for inside—a potion, even better. A silent tear ran from his eye and rolled into his hair. Dumbledore had used him, had used Harry, and for what? This last, most important command to tell Harry, Severus had been unable to accomplish. If the fool boy didn't run to the pensieve and view those memories, it would all be for nothing. He wouldn't know that he himself must die. Even if Potter somehow managed to pull another trick out of his ass and kill the dark lord, Harry—with Voldemort's soul—would survive. It wouldn't be over.

Too weak from blood loss to do anything but lay shivering in the sticky pool of his life's fluid, too weak even to meditate on the fate of the world if Harry failed to kill Voldemort…and himself…Severus closed his eyes and drifted into a dreamless unconsciousness.

It may have been hours, or only a few seconds, he had no way of knowing. Severus woke with a start and remembered where he was. He'd be damned if he was going to die here in this godforsaken shack, victim of the dark lord he'd fought for so long! His wand barely off the floor, he sent a heating charm around himself, then regrouped his strength for the next spell.

The doe patronus leapt from the end of his wand, stood as if awaiting instructions, and bounded out a broken window. It was all he could do; everything now rested on her. She wouldn't fail him.

He closed his eyes once more and slipped back into unconsciousness.

XXXOOOXXXOOOXXXOOOXXXOOO

"Here's a good place." Dolohov stopped in the middle of the Death Eater-beaten path, then strolled over to lean against a tree.

Yaxley followed him over with another quick glance up ahead into the darkness. "I'm kind of glad the master picked us to act as lookouts." The understanding flowing between them insured that he didn't need to add 'because the tension in camp is overwhelming and I don't want to be the one the dark lord chooses to torture when his patience snaps'.

"Yeah, me too," agreed Dolohov. "Although I doubt the jackal Potter will show up. The kid's a fool, but he's not suicidal."

"The dark lord thinks he'll come," Yaxley argued. "He's always right."

Dolohov held his tongue. He'd been a devoted follower of the evil wizard since he'd been a young man. More than forty years later he was still a devoted follower, a staunch believer in the cause of pureblood superiority, but a thirteen year hiatus in Azkaban, coupled with another year-long stay had dampened his enthusiasm a bit. He grunted an incoherent reply.

Yaxley, his cruel face twisted in a semblance of a smile, said, "I can't wait to drag his skinny arse to the master and watch the brat get what he's had coming for years."

"If you don't shut up, he'll hear us and run for the hills," hissed Dolohov.

"I thought you said you didn't think he'd show," taunted Yaxley.

Dolohov raised his wand in warning, baring his teeth. Though not truly intimidated by his friend, Yaxley knew him well enough to surmise Antonin just might hex him for the fun of it, or to shut him up, so he sniffed and threw himself back against a tree to wait. The Potter boy would be along soon, then this whole business would come to a head, the wizarding world would fall, and Lord Voldemort would reign in his rightful place.

XXXOOOXXXOOOXXXOOOXXXOOO

In the clearing of the Forbidden Forest, with remnants of a massive spider web hanging overhead, there was a lull in the troupe of Death Eaters as everyone strained forward, anxious to see if the Potter brat was finally dead. After years of being thwarted, Lord Voldemort had taken his opportunity and avada kedavra'd the boy, only to be knocked senseless himself at the same instant. When he at last regained consciousness, he'd waved away the Death Eaters hovering over him like irritating nurses pretending he, the greatest dark lord of all time, had needed their pitiful help. Even Bellatrix's solicitous manner made him want to lash out.

Lucius shivered though it was a warm night. His body battered from his latest beating and torture session at Voldemort's hands, he tried not to move too much while straining to see through his one eye that was not puffy and bruised. His heart leaped when the dark lord ordered Narcissa to check Potter. What if he wasn't dead? What if he caused harm to her as he'd apparently done to Lord Voldemort?

Narcissa knelt, bent over the lad, and snaked her hand inside his shirt. The hard thumping of his heart almost made her recoil as her stomach jumped into her mouth. It wasn't possible, no one could survive the killing curse! But this was Harry Potter, the child who'd done in Lord Voldemort as a mere baby, who'd escaped death at the dark lord's hand several times since then. He was charmed, he was…not human?

In a split second decision, she laid her fate and that of her family at the feet of the indestructible boy. "Is Draco alive? Is he in the castle?" she whispered in his ear.

"Yes," Harry whispered back. Her fingernails bit into his flesh as she squeezed, and then she let him go and sat up.

"He is dead!" she called out.

The Death Eaters erupted in cries of jubilation and of shooting their wands into the sky, lighting it like fireworks. Lucius sank back into the darkness, despair mingling with elation. The dark lord had won, Lucius and his family would be slaves to the lunatic forever…and he didn't even have a wand, no means of protection whatsoever. On the other hand, they would now storm the castle, secure in victory, allowing him to search for his son.

Even so, it sickened him to watch Voldemort toy with the boy's corpse while his companions laughed and jeered, to hear the giant sobbing over his dead little friend as he carried him at the head of the procession to Hogwarts. How easily that might have been Draco for failing in his task, and the bastards would have cheered in the same way.

It seemed endless, this march to the castle. If only he had Narcissa by his side, but Bellatrix was prodding her along right near the front with Voldemort. When at last they halted on school grounds, he'd hoped to go inside immediately, but no. The insanity of the dark lord knew no bounds, he had to posture and strut as he paraded Potter's body for the children and teachers defending the castle.

And where the hell was Snape? Lucius hadn't seen him since informing him that the master wished to see him. Had he been sent back into the castle by some hidden access route? Had he secured Draco safely away from the fighting to come?

As if he weren't antsy enough at being so close to Draco yet unable to reach him, an idiot boy came bumbling out to confront the master. Was he absolutely mad? He recognized the child…Longbottom…he knew the name from Bella's sadistic game with his parents. He'd heard all about it, much more than he cared to hear.

Lucius wasn't paying much mind to the argument between Neville and Voldemort, he was busy studying the people surrounding the castle, trying to figure the quickest, best way in, the path of least resistance. A flash of fire caught his eye and he did a doubletake. Had the dark lord decided to torment the boy by setting his head on fire? No, it was that hat, that stupid sorting hat.

Evidently the people in the mob took offense at his methods. All at once hundreds of people streamed from the castle shrieking like banshees. Where had they all come from? The Death Eaters in the earlier battle had reported a fairly small number remaining! From these faces he could tell that most were much older than students, likely family. And he recognized a few business owners from Hogsmeade. Blast it, they now had all of Hogsmeade as well as other reinforcements to fight! What if they'd already killed Draco?

A mini-giant came lumbering at them shouting, "Hagger!"

The two other giants attacked him and all hell broke loose. Suddenly the centaurs they'd passed in the forest were firing arrows at them; Mulciber dropped dead on the spot with two arrows to the chest. Lucius, along with the rest of the Death Eaters, bolted for cover and the fight was on. Curses and hexes shot back and forth, people screamed trying to avoid being trampled to death by the flowing of the crowd toward the Great Hall. Jugson didn't quite make it; knocked down by an arrow to the leg, he died a painful death under hundreds of stampeding feet.

Lucius elbowed his way through dueling Death Eaters to Narcissa, who was already running for the castle. "Draco's in there!" she gasped hysterically. "He told me!" Lucius didn't have time to argue that Draco couldn't have told her anything, he simply grabbed her hand and together they raced into the Great Hall with a good many others on their heels.

"Draco!" he bellowed, the name echoed immediately by Narcissa. "Split up. Honey, you go that way, I'll go this way!"

Lucius glimpsed a horde of house elves storming in from the kitchen and made a quick turn to dash up a stairway. He hadn't seen Draco in the Great Hall, he was probably hiding elsewhere. No point in trying to battle the hideous, dangerous little creatures, not that he stood a chance without a wand…and if Dobby was any indication, he didn't stand a chance even with a wand. He glanced back to see Rowle overrun by the tiny devils who surrounded him, dragged him down, and were hacking at him with knives and cleavers. Lucius grimaced; not a pretty way to die.

Narcissa skirted the fighters to enter the corridor. "Draco!" How could he possibly hear her over all the commotion? "Draco, where are you?" She ran back into the crowded Hall, trying to contain her hysteria. Potter said he was here!

She barely dodged a hex that slammed into Yaxley, followed immediately by another. Good riddance, she hoped the young men responsible had killed the perverse Death Eater. Across the room she caught sight of a blond head. "Draco!" No, it was only Lucius!

Tears coursed down her face as she plunged onward. There were so many people she could barely plow her way through, then it seemed the crowd began to inexplicably part against the walls.

Slowly it dawned on her that most of the Death Eaters had fallen, either dead or incapacitated, and only two battles were going on—Bella and Lord Voldemort. Narcissa stopped, feeling numb. Bella was dueling three girls and getting the best of them when they were swept aside by an irate Molly Weasley, of all people. Bella laughed uproariously. The poor redheaded woman didn't stand a chance! Then again, she was fighting for something more than Bella could hope to understand—her children. As a mother desperate to save her own son, Narcissa thought perhaps the Weasley woman might put up a decent fight after all.

In the hushed silence of the Great Hall, broken only by the sounds of Voldemort's battle with three experienced adults, the two traded vicious magical blows, both furiously fighting to win…to kill. When a curse sneaked past Bella's defense, hitting her squarely in the chest, Narcissa gasped. Bella teetered and fell. A scream ripped the air, and Narcissa thought it had come from herself, except the explosion of the three combatants away from Voldemort told her differently. He was infuriated by the loss of his most devoted Death Eater.

Then came cheers and howls from the throng when Potter revealed himself to the dark lord. A hand slipped into hers and she turned, wide eyed, to view the face of her husband, with Draco in tow. Throwing herself at the boy, she clutched him to her chest as Harry and the dark lord circled each other on the floor.

XXXOOOXXXOOOXXXOOOXXXOOO

The Malfoys huddled together, exhausted, at one of the tables in the Great Hall, afraid to leave lest someone with a wand challenge them, and no way to get home if they did flee. None of them had a wand. People wandered about aimlessly looking for friends and loved ones, or grieving the loss of same, no one paying any attention to the Malfoys.

Voldemort was finally really and truly dead, for which they—along with everyone else— rejoiced deep in their souls. Severus, as Potter had revealed, was also dead, victim of that damned evil wizard; they mourned him in silence, comforted only by the presence of their loved ones alive and well beside them. Lucius was an escaped criminal, his son a Death Eater as well, his wife an accomplice. They harbored no doubt that they would all be arrested in due time, but for the moment they were free and together. It would have to be enough.

XXXOOOXXXOOOXXXOOOXXXOOO

"Professor McGonagall, may I speak with you?"

"Harry, of course!" The old woman pulled him into a hard embrace, her emotions for once let completely loose, then she straightened with a little cough and patted the bun askew on her head.

Looking every bit as weary as he felt, Harry said, "I hate to burden you with one more thing, but…well, Sn—Professor Snape. He—he was on our side."

"I know, Harry, I heard what you told…Voldemort." She winced at the name and pinched her lips tight.

"He—his body is in the Shrieking Shack. Would you come with me to bring him here? He deserves to be honored, not left to rot—"

"Mr. Potter, I certainly would not leave Severus 'to rot'. I'm honored that you chose me to help you," answered Minerva stiffly. The guilt roiling in her mind at all the awful things she'd said and thought about Snape came roaring to a head. "Come along."

They exited the Hall, now silent save the snores of those too tired or injured to go home. The Death Eaters who hadn't escaped the fight or been killed had been dealt with courtesy of every available auror, and were now safely tucked away in Azkaban. Peace once more reigned in the halls of Hogwarts. In the unnaturally quiet mid-morning they made their way to the shack, neither one anxious to arrive.

Harry led the way to the room where he'd witnessed the murder of Snape, and stopped abruptly in the doorway, his mouth dropping open. Minerva, assuming him to be in shock, pushed past him in a businesslike manner and halted in place. A large, dark pool of dried blood lay on the floor, but there was no Snape.

"He was here, I swear!" Potter exclaimed.

For the briefest second Minerva hesitated. Potter had undergone a lot in these past months, culminating in terrible things he'd seen and been forced to do, even offering himself up for death. Could he be punchdrunk from fatigue? Hallucinating, perhaps? But no, it didn't fit. Not able to argue with the fact that someone had lain here, and probably died here, Minerva nodded sagely. Harry had seen it, Voldemort had admitted to killing Snape here. So where was he?

"I believe you, Potter. The burning question is, who took his body and why?"

XXXOOOXXXOOOXXXOOOXXXOOO

Darkness was his friend. From the time he'd been a boy, Rabastan Lestrange had preferred the dark to the light, metaphorically as well as physically. Daylight now shone strongly on this warm morning at the abandoned, dilapidated castle where he and the other Death Eaters had met so often with Lord Voldemort in the early years, before the master had been killed by the baby Potter. Back before things got so crazy. He stretched out his thin frame on the cold stones and sat up squinting, remembering last night.

The first part of the battle had gone well, they would have been victorious if they'd fought on, only the dark lord had commanded them to retreat to give Potter time to turn himself in. When they attacked the second time, the sheer number of reinforcements the Hogwarts defenders had gathered staggered him. In short order the Death Eaters had lost a good many men to the horde, it was inconceivable that they could win—inevitable that they'd lose the battle altogether even with the dark lord fighting alongside them.

The last straw had been seeing his brother Rodolphus fall under two hexes at once. Rabastan couldn't tell what the spells were or whether they were fatal, only that he'd gone down and there were almost none of their companions left standing. He'd done the only rational thing possible to avoid either dying or going back to that hellhole Azkaban: he'd turned and run, past the giants trying to crush him, and the centaurs trying to skewer him, and the screaming mob trying to lynch him. He hadn't stopped running until he'd reached Hogwarts' boundary where he could disapparate.

He'd come to their old stomping grounds because it was the first place he could think of that the aurors wouldn't know about. It seemed so hollow, so desolate, more so in the light of day. But at least it was safe.

"Rabastan!"

The man addressed nearly wet himself from shock as he twisted around sharply, wand at ready. "Damn it, Nott, you scared me shitless." He lowered the wand and stood up.

Udo Nott sauntered forward smirking. Though several years younger than Rabastan, the single year he'd spent in Azkaban had hollowed his cheeks and created a gaunt, older appearance much like the other man, who'd wasted in the prison far longer.

"I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who got away," said Nott. He walked over and sat on what used to be a countertop made by Lord Voldemort himself.

"How did the battle end?" asked Rabastan hesitantly. If the Death Eaters had somehow won against invincible odds, the dark lord would punish him horribly for his cowardice. He'd gone to Azkaban once, believing the dark lord would swiftly rescue him, and it hadn't worked out that way. He couldn't bear to do it again. Surely the master would understand. No, he wouldn't, he wouldn't care! That was the problem!

Nott shrugged one shoulder, looking a wee bit guilty. Obviously he was of the same opinion. "It was going really bad, there was no way we could win…" He bit his lip nervously. "I'm afraid to go home in case aurors are watching my house. Same with Malfoy's place."

"Well, we need to find out. If the dark lord catches us…" There was no need to finish. "We'll disguise ourselves and go to Knockturn Alley, find out what news. Then we'll decide what to do from there."