Chapter 24

Hermione returned to find Harry and Ron standing grimly wands raised, and with the invisibility cloak in Harry's hand (which appeared to have been mended in her absence).

"Ready?"asked Harry, as he extended the cloak, indicating for her to hide below it.

"What if he doesn't cast the killing curse?"Hermione asked, not moving. "What if casts something else, and it hits me. I'll be found out."

"I don't think so, Hermione," he replied, looking determined. "I don't think he will risk it. He wouldn't want me to get away, like I always have."

"But what if he does?" insisted Ron, who looked very pale.

"It is a risk I am willing to take," Hermione said, even as she felt her wand shaking in her hand.

"Under the cloak now, all of you," said Godric. "There is not much time left. We will be with you, although you will not be able to see us. We will protect you as much as we can, both from wayward curses, and from anyone trying to interfere. But once the necklace is destroyed, we will vanish. And then it is all up to you."

"But how will you see us, underneath the cloak?" asked Harry.

"We will be able to," replied Rowena. "That is all that matters."

There was a moment of silence in which the three simply looked at each other. Hermione's hands were still trembling, but she was determined.

"We can do this," she whispered before the three of them hugged. She resisted the temptation to cry, and spared one last thought for her parents before the three of them disappeared under the cloak. Sparing one last look at Riddle, lying there, unmoving, on the hard ground, hoping that it would not be the last time she would see him, they made their way out of the forest in silence. They had not walked long before they could hear the commotion of the battle.

Hermione was struck by the noise. She could hear people crying out, people screaming – in pain or in fear she did not know – and soon they could hear more clearly, people shouting curses, and defensive charms. Finally, they reached the edge of the forest, and the scene that was playing out before them was awe inspiring. It was like nothing she had ever seen before – almost a hundred people, running around the grounds, battling. With a lurch in her stomach, she saw that many bodies were scattered across the grounds, unmoving... she hoped they were death eaters...

"I don't see him," said Harry at once, who was frantically searching the grounds. "I don't see Voldemort, or Dumbledore."

"Come on, we need to move closer," said Hermione, "so we can move quickly when he does show up..."

Soon they were close enough that they could recognise those who ran before them, but far away enough so that they could avoid being hit by misplaced curses. Hermione felt a jolt in her stomach every time she recognised someone... Professor McGonagall, Tonks, Moody, Remus... and every now and then, a student...

"Ginny!"gasped Ron.

And Hermione, horrified, saw her too, locked in battle with a fierce looking Death Eater who she did not recognise.

Without warning, Ron tore off the cloak and ran to join the battle, his wand raised before him.

"Stupefy!" he cried, just as Ginny had been knocked off her feet. His aim was true, and the Death Eater fell to the ground.

"Ron!" cried Ginny, as he helped her to her feet, and she threw her arms around him. "Ron, we thought you were dead!"

"I'm okay!" he replied, as he looked around hastily, "And so are Harry and Hermione."

"I – what are you wearing?" she exclaimed, as Ron was still wearing his outfit from the play.

But a curse narrowly missed Ron before he could reply, and they were forced to rejoin the battle. Hermione felt Harry becoming restless besides her.

"Hurry up, hurry up," he exclaimed through gritted teeth, his eyes flicking from person to person.

And then, suddenly, everything seemed to change, people were screaming... but there was no mistaking the fear this time. There was chaos as the Death Eaters retreated to one side, and Hermione suddenly understood... there was no mistaking his grotesque, snakelike appearance... Voldemort had appeared in the middle of the battle field. Even from where they stood, Hermione could hear his sick, twisted laugh...

Harry started besides her, and turned look at her.

"Now!""he cried, and he tried to make his way forward, but Hermione pulled him back.

"They said Dumbledore would be here!"

But even before Harry could reply, a figure came rushing out of the castle, and running across the grounds.

Suddenly cries of joy filled the air, and the screaming died down.

"Dumbledore!" hissed Voldemort.

And indeed, it was Dumbledore, who was now standing almost face to face with Voldemort, each with their supporters lined up behind them, wands raised, ready for battle.

"You were meant to be away," said Voldemort, his anger unmistakable.

"Funny how those things happen, Tom,"Dumbledore replied, with an air of authority that appeared to infuriate Voldemort, and before Hermione knew what was happening, both wizards were locked in a fierce and horrific battle, the likes of which she had never seen before. Before they had cast more than a handful of spells each, however, Harry had grabbed her arm and they were running forward towards the action.

They stopped at a safe distance, and Harry turned to Hermione, whispered good luck, before pulling off the cloak, stepping forward, and shouting, "Tom Riddle!"

A gasp ran through the crowd.

"Harry Potter!"

"It's Potter – he's alive!"

"He's come to save us!"

Even Dumbledore and Voldemort had stopped their battle at the sound of his voice.

Voldemort hissed, in apparent glee, "Potter!"

"No!"cried Dumbledore.

Harry stood his ground, shoulders held back, wand raised in true defiance. Hermione rushed to stand in front of him, her hands trembling worse than ever. She felt the power of the necklace, and knew that it was giving her the courage to do what she had to do.

At that moment, something very strange happened. It was as though an invisible field had been set up around Dumbledore – Hermione could see his lips moving, could see that he waving his wand, but nothing at all was happening, and not a word he spoke was audible.

Voldemort too was taken aback by this occurrence.

"What is the meaning of this?" he scorned, looking angrily at Dumbledore.

"I did it!" lied Harry boldly.

"You?"said Voldemort mockingly, turning to face Harry. "You? You think you have the power to do this?"

"Yes,"Harry replied loudly, so that everyone present could hear him. "Yes, I do. I don't want him to be the one to kill you – I want that glory to be mine!"

Hermione knew, as Harry raised his wand, that he was trying to provoke him, and it worked – Voldemort cried out furiously, raised his wand, and shouted,

"Avada Kedavra!"

Hermione did not even have time to brace herself. There was a flash of green light, and everything was black.

Meanwhile, Tom Riddle was still lying in the forest, quiet still. But what everyone had failed to notice was that his lack of movement was attributed to a terrible fatigue that had overcome him, rather than unconsciousness. So he lay in the dirt, unmoving, barely able to exert the energy needed to breath. But what his body lacked in energy, his mind made up for in alertness, because for some strange reason, though Slytherin had drained his body, his mind was left unaltered.

Although he could not remember what had happened immediately after the left the great hall – which he attributed to the imperious curse – he had heard every word of the conversation between Hermione, Harry and Ron, and later, the Hogwarts Founders.

And what he had heard had left him silently seething. There was only one concept on his mind at the moment – revenge. Of course, he feared that he might not be able to claim it, given the predicament he was in, but that only contributed to his anger.

Then everything changed. Just as he was lamenting the likelihood that revenge might never be his – that his body might fail him first – he felt a terrible sensation in his stomach, as though someone had kicked him, and suddenly the sensation swept through his body – but much to his shock, there was no pain. Instead, as the sensation spread, he felt a fresh burst of energy, and almost as quickly as the sensation had hit him, it was gone.

At last, he opened his eyes. His breathing was again a task which came naturally, and without delay he jumped to his feet.

It was time to take his revenge.

A/N - I'm sorry it is so short! Hopefully the next chapter will be a bit longer, and up in a few weeks.