Author Note: Well, this is it, folks! The conclusion. As glad as I was to start posting this, the conclusion fills me with a sense of accomplishment before a completed work. My writing days are far from over, as I'm currently working on many projects at the same time, notably my long delayed Naruto fanfiction. Be sure to put me on Author Alert to make sure not to miss any new work!
Disclaimer: "Children! Make sure you write your name on your Harry Potter not to lose it!"
"She took my Harry!"
"She took mine too!"
"Miss Rowling, don't keep all the Harrys for yourself! Jeez..."
Luna was tending to Sweetie in the Great Hall. The poor beast had tried its best. It had fried the wings off of four Chinese dragons before getting overwhelmed by their numbers. There were still at least a dozen flying attackers outside – and that was just in the air. McGonagall was doing her best to lead the defenders from the high windows, but the dragons forced them back inside with constant streams of fire to the walls.
The defenders could just stick their heads out of the windows for only two or three seconds, firing whatever curses they could before ducking back inside. For now, the dragons were barely a hindrance. The real threat came from the swarming mass darkening the grounds at the foot of the castle. Thousands of snakes of all sizes were crawling on the left side, while what seemed like every Acromantulas in the world were climbing the stone walls with practical ease.
Manticores were slamming against the great doors, trying to bring them down. Some dug their four crab-like legs into the ground, managing to break the stone pathway, pushing against the doors, while others simply slammed themselves against the gates. Their long claws didn't even scratch the metal, but their combined strength was putting a dangerous strain on the gates. Behind them stood the dementors – all of them. The darkness surrounding the area could only be achieved by the totality of Britain's worst nightmare. The defenders felt despair crawl inside the castle like an invisible fog, draining their strength.
Voldemort didn't issue any warnings, no demands at all. He simply wanted to wipe them all out of existence. He didn't care about survivors or the future of Wizarding Britain. They had to think of a plan! But for that, they needed to have some hope of winning. Harry and the Headmaster were nowhere to be found. Ron found Harry's mirror on his bedside. People huddled close, waiting for the inevitable.
Harry was watching the scene with an analytical eye. The retaliation coming from the castle was at a bare minimum. The spiders were now getting blasted as they reached the windows. Some were climbing higher to reach the roof. The dragons that concentrated their fire on the windows were cursed where they were flying, not caring if they burned spiders in the way.
"Albus. I'm taking care of the dementors," stated Harry firmly. He looked below, and spotted more than just that kind of undead.
"And the Inferi. I can feel their negative effects from here. They must be the ones sapping the defenders' will to fight."
"Harry, you can't possibly…"
"As of now, it's Sir Harry," claimed Harry, summoning forth the Potter DeathScythe and armor.
"If Voldemort gets to you…" began Dumbledore.
"Then I'm going to be his Death," finished Harry with a raspy voice from under his hood.
The sixteen-year-old hero jumped from his broom, falling fast toward the earth. Whipping out his wand, he fired a powerful cushioning charm underneath himself. He landed on one hand and knee, intact, the ground making ripples all around him. He got up, facing the crowd of monsters dressed in dark cloaks, as he was himself. The Headmaster knew Harry was right. He was the only one able to handle this. Even Albus' patronus would be overpowered. The old man pushed his broom past the dragons, surprising them. He threw a well-placed conjunctivitis curse at some, before getting back inside the castle through one of the widest top windows. He dismounted his broom in one move, pulling the flying device from underneath him with one hand. He had been quite the flyer in his youth too. His sudden appearance shocked many, but gave birth to a flicker of hope on the dark faces of the protectors holding the school.
"People, Sir Harry is down there bringing the fight to the enemy. He's going to be facing odds like none before him. Let's get rid of our own enemies as fast as possible to lend him a hand."
Cheers came from right and left when the Headmaster turned toward the window himself, sending a blinding light that forced the dragons to look away before hailing deadly spells upon the nearest spiders.
News of the return of Harry and the Headmaster traveled fast through the castle. For some reason, their minds were clearer, and hope filled them as if the invisible dark fog was being replaced by one made of inner light. Luna got up, leaving Sweetie in the care of a seventh year student who was studying to become a healer. Madam Pomfrey was upstairs, tending to the wounds of the fighters. Her boyfriend was outside, fighting for them all with his life in his hands. She would not sit idly. She got her wand out with a resolute face. She went to Ron, who looked like he wanted to do something. His wish would be granted.
"Ronald, call the beaters of all the teams," she ordered him.
Ron was often slow on the uptake. He was about to ask why, but the look on her face told him he would know soon enough. The beaters were the defense in a Quidditch team. Hogwarts needed defenses. He climbed on a table, towering over the crowd of students in the Hall before shouting with his strongest, most commanding voice:
"Beaters of Hogwarts! Assemble in lines!"
The players, used to being ordered around the pitch on such notice, simply obeyed, looking at each other. Luna didn't waste any time. She used multiple accio charms, aided by a puzzled Hermione, to summon all of the Bludgers, including all the spares they could find. Since some bludgers escaped during practice on the pitch, there were always extras. This made for more than thirty balls eager to hit something. Luna transfigured beater bats out of furniture for everyone. Not ordinary bats, though: they reminded Ron of those over-sized bats they used in a muggle sport called 'baseball'. Luna asked Hermione for a flurry of charms to put on them. Her eyes widened, understanding her plan. She began shaking her head but Luna turned away, climbing on the table beside Ron, who didn't know what to do next.
"Beaters of Hogwarts!" yelled Luna in her strongest voice, which wasn't that loud, really. But most were already shocked by the fact she could yell, so the effect remained the same.
"Outside these walls is a force that means to kill us, before moving on to the rest of the country! Harry Potter is out there, fighting dementors and Inferi with his bare hands, but he can't be everywhere at once! He can't fight on the ground and in the air! Our Headmaster is leading an assault against the rampaging swarm of Voldemort! This is a job for the PC club, which I urge to run up the stairs and support our teachers! But you…" she said, pointing at the students lined before her. "YOU will have to take the fight to the air! Fight like you learned to do in countless hours under the burning sun or the pouring rain! You will take your bats and hit those Bludgers at those attacking us from the air!"
The line of students paled. There were twelve beaters in all, including substitutes. There were about as many dragons outside. Ron paled too, but knew it had to be done. He took the pep talk from there.
"We've all fought in games where the odds were against us. The prizes were our pride and a cup. Today, they're our freedom and our lives! We can't be mere bystanders, cheering the playing team! If we back down from this fight, we might as well bow to Voldemort directly, allowing him to tower over our lives, and the lives of those we sought to protect!"
People shivered at hearing the dreaded name, but were in awe seeing Ron speak it aloud like only his best friend had before: without fear.
"Each of you will Summon his broom from the shed and mount it in the air to charge those dragons, showing them they are not the ones to fear! They will feel our anger! They will taste of our clubs! They dare attack us? We'll reply in spades!"
Henry Tank, getting to their table, saw the possibilities these young wizards and witches offered. They were a coordinated unit. They could do this.
"Could I suggest my experience on the battlefield to lead your group against the dragons? I have dealt with such beasts before. I would only need someone to relay the orders in flight," the History teacher said loudly.
Ron nodded with a grave face.
"I'll be beside you to relay your orders. Let's move!"
The students, gaining more resolve, saw Ron run toward the stairs leading to the top of the south tower, where the least fighting had happened.
"Teams on the field!" he yelled over his shoulder. The assembled Beaters didn't dare disobey. Ten minutes later, a flight of twelve students, some no older than fourteen, and a few teachers took the fight into the air, hitting bludgers at the heads of the dragons. There followed a game of cat and mouse, where the roles often got inverted. Following Mr. Tank's orders, the Beaters distracted the dragons more than enough to allow the Headmaster, the teachers and the PC club to strike back at the swarm at their feet. It allowed them to finally look outside and see if Harry Potter was really fighting like the rumors had said.
Looking at the dementor force, Dumbledore realized that they would not be the ones to go help Harry once they were done, but probably the other way around.
Harry felt the dementors turn as one toward him. They recognized him – and hesitated. Despite their undead nature, they still had one human trait: self-preservation. Harry heard something from behind him. He saw people running toward them, waving their wands, producing their patronuses. The Order! He saw Sirius and Remus in the forefront, yelling as they charged. Harry knew better; they were heading for disaster. They might provide a distraction long enough for him to try his latest trick, though.
Harry pulled a vial out from under his cloak. He opened it, revealing a strange-looking essence inside. He had tried using a mixture of unicorn essence and silver essence. The pure substances had mixed quite well. From the uncorked vial there seemed to radiate a concentrated moonlight. Harry dipped the tip of his wand into the vial, touching the surface. He closed his eyes, betting on quality over quantity this time. He thought without an ounce of shame about his time with Luna; with Fleur; with both of them – all the emotional, physical and spiritual joy and happiness they were bringing to him, and the time he still hoped to have with them. He didn't cast the spell at once. He let the feeling build up until he felt he wanted to yell their names and his love for them to the world. Then he called for his patronus.
Unbeknown to him, the fight between the Order and the Dementors had halted before they could reach each other. He was glowing, basking in a silvery aura with golden rays of light escaping it. It was enough in itself to keep the black horrors at bay. Then, like a nova, his patronus appeared. The stag was bigger than ever, made of solid silver. However, its antlers were now only two spiraled, golden horns that sprouted from its head. It was immaculate.
The Order stopped dead in their tracks, looking at this magical impossibility. One of them stopped for a very different reason. The moonlight caused Lupin's eyes to widen. He was having trouble breathing, and his pupils dilated until they occupied the whole of his eyes. People started backing away from him as his transformation occurred. His clothes were mostly ripped, barely keeping enough on for his modesty. He fell down on all fours and started running toward Harry. It all happened so fast that Sirius didn't even have time to realize that Remus had transformed two weeks before a full moon.
Harry looked up, serene, at his creation. He heard steps behind him approaching fast as he sent his patronus in pursuit of the retreating dementors. As he turned his head, he saw a werewolf stop near him, standing straight. He was looking at his own paw.
"So…This is what it's like…" said the deformed voice of Remus Lupin. Harry had no real idea of how this was possible, but it seemed that his former teacher had transformed while keeping his mind.
"Having fun?" asked Harry, keeping a strong grip on the handle of his scythe.
"You could say that," replied Remus, smiling with all his fangs. It looked like he was still influenced by the wolf.
"There is a horde of Inferi over there if you need some entertainment. I'm going to join you as soon as I finish off the dementors."
"Now that sounds like fun! I guess the instincts come with the package," answered a snorting werewolf. He threw his head back and howled to the sky before taking off in the undead army's direction.
Harry followed shortly, apparating in front of one dementor or another, stopping them from escaping the deadly charge of his patronus. Despite not killing them outright, his scythe could tear through them, even cripple them. They learned to fear the man as much as his holy beast. Striking down at them, escaping by apparating somewhere else, he became so concentrated in the fight he simply appeared from one cluster of dementors to another, pushing them into the path of his patronus, paralyzing them in his own silvery aura that seemed to travel with him, following his every jump in space. Wisps of light erupted on the battleground as he dominated the game as much as a dementor could dominate a crowd of muggles.
People from the castle who had a few seconds to spare saw the light show; and Albus realized that Harry was forging his own legend tonight. He never lost sight of the goal, though. He hadn't lived this long by getting sidetracked. The manticores were making good progress at ripping the doors off their hinges. The magic and iron keeping them up was failing fast.
The PC was doing a good job at sweeping the snakes and spiders from the walls, so much so that he guessed his attention could be turned somewhere else. Despite fearing much for the Beater team in the air, they seemed to be hanging on under the lead of Mr. Tank. They attacked, attracting the attention of a beast that started pursuing them. Then they moved to another target, taking its attention away from a retreating Beater while another did the same for their own pursuer. It was a tight chasing game where they had to hit as many Bludgers as they hit dragon's bums to get their attention.
He would have to organize the people in the Great Hall to repel the manticores. Then he could do something against the dragons. He was about to come down the stairs when movement from the grounds caught his eyes. What was that?
Neville wanted to help. He knew he could! If only he could get to the greenhouse in time! Running as fast as he could, damning himself for not keeping his weak body in shape, he spared a glance behind him. Two manticores were after him, running, or crawling, full speed. They had seen him as he was already two hundred meters from the castle itself. He had no chance of getting back inside! Now they were mere meters away, and Neville was fleeing on the wings of despair. The only thing that restrained him from ducking to the ground in the fetal position and waiting for a quick death was the greenhouse in front of him. He pushed his legs further, at a speed he never knew he possessed. He simply held his hands in front of him, jumping at the door.
Neville rolled inside painfully before stopping against the leg of a workbench, panting for air. His legs were burning, as were his lungs. He tried to sit up, doubling over, trying his best to get his breath under control. He didn't even look up. He knew what he would see: two angry monsters stomping on the doorstep, unable to enter. Harry was the one to place the wards there, and he trusted him with his life. In fact, that's what he just did. The beasts were screaming their frustration away, their heads reeling back from the ramming they were doing on the enchanted glass.
"Yeah, yeah. Keep it up, stupid beast," said Neville, getting up painfully. He put on dragon-hide gloves and earmuffs, then he grabbed a heavy pot with strange leaves coming out of the soil. He brought it in front of the door, mocking the helplessness of the monsters by standing less than two feet from them.
"You think that's shouting? Listen to this!"
Neville pulled up on the leaves to reveal a mandrake root – a fully-grown one. It started shouting and wailing, easily drowning out the sound of the two monsters outside. They thrashed around, trying to tear off their own ears. Neville went so far as to leave the security of the greenhouse to get the plant closer to them. One tried to bend down and claw at Neville, but the boy simply lifted the deadly plant next to his closest ear. He dropped dead. The other followed suit soon after.
Neville went back inside, dug a place in the pot and put the root back in. Then, he cradled it in his arm and whistled a lullaby, rocking back and forth. After two minutes, he tentatively pulled up a muff, very carefully: nothing. It was back asleep.
'As easy as that,' thought Neville, proudly.
The wailing didn't only affect the manticores. They woke up the reason Neville had come here in the first place. He stood in front of the tallest of the Guardian Trees. Three serene faces adorned it. The one facing him was staring him down. Neville wasn't scared; he knew it well. He could read its mood as much as one could read a plant. It was expecting Neville to tell him what to do, since he was its creator – its father.
"There is a menace over Hogwarts, Rupert. We need you and your offspring to help. There are more like those two I killed outside. We have to go."
The tree looked at him silently, unmoving. Neville didn't say another word. Trees were slower-thinking than humans. Only when they decided to act…
The huge plant, now as big as an oak from his magical growth, pulled its roots from underground. A strange humming was heard and the rows of smaller trees behind him did the same. Neville climbed onto a low branch. The Guardian tree, answering to the name of 'Rupert', slowly made his way to the back door of the greenhouse – the one designed for him to exit from, to defend Hogwarts someday. That day had come.
Dumbledore couldn't believe what he was seeing. A horde of trees were battling the manticores! Neville was at their lead, firing curses to help them from the top of the biggest of those strange plants. The trees were using their strong branches only as a last resort, when the monsters got too close for comfort. Usually though, they took them out with a sonic attack that seemed quite painful, and deadly. Was it like the scream of a mandrake root? Anyhow, it was working. The snakes that tried to get near, probably ordered by their master, were stomped on. The spiders were getting cut down by the PC club, the best of them having learned the 'spider chopper' Harry had demonstrated at the end of the third task, in his fourth year.
The Order of the Phoenix was doing its best to send stunners at the dragons flying the closest to the ground. Seeing this, Ron relayed the order to the group of beaters to fly closer to the ground.
Dumbledore smiled. Things were looking good. He climbed back on his broom, leaving the castle. He joined the flying fighting force, stopping next to Mr Tank.
"What would you like me to do, General?"
Harry was searching around for dementors. They were scarce. After five minutes of apparating around, he had to face reality: he had killed them all. No longer did he feel the chill in the air or bad memories vainly trying to push their way into his mind. Inferi were no match for a werewolf's agility and stamina; Remus was tearing them apart. Harry discovered soon thereafter that undead were easily killed by patronuses too. Aurors came rushing in from Hogsmeade and formed a line, firing spells at them, thinning out the number even more. Harry felt it was time – time to end this. He concentrated on his scar and apparated away.
Voldemort was not angry. How could you be merely angry when an army of dark creatures you had spent a year forming was crumbling before your eyes? All of this while feeling a splitting headache? If not for the dark potions he had downed before getting there, he might very well be writhing on the ground like that worthless Potter under his cruciatus. Yes…Potter under his cruciatus…that was a memory to help him withstand all of this.
"Come on, Bella. Let's get back to the Manor. We'll find another way than using these bugs to do the work."
Bellatrix, fearing to be on the other end of her master's anger, hoped against all odds that he would take it out in bed. She still had a hope that he would finally use her as his sex toy, and she apparated away.
Voldemort threw one last look to where the aura of Potter was flaring, decimating the Inferi alongside the half-breed. He should have followed his idea of recruiting werewolves, despite the Ministry's now treating them better. Fenrir Greyback didn't seem to care about his poor living conditions.
He called Nagini back to him, who stayed by his side in case she had the opportunity to bite some young flesh. He was about to grab her when a light popping noise was heard. He put up a shield instantly and the PotterScythe swung wildly at his right side. As he looked down, he saw that the target wasn't him, but his pet. Nagini rested now at his feet, neatly cleaved in two.
"Pot…ter… How dare you! That's it; the last time. One of us isn't going home tonight, Potter."
"For once, I agree with you, Riddle. Now bow," said Harry, joining words to actions and bowing himself.
Dumbledore was breathing hard and winced as he tried to get up. The dragon forces had been cut down by the combined assault of the Beaters of Hogwarts and the Order of the Phoenix. He had to modestly admit that he had made a small contribution by mercilessly slaying three of the beasts himself, that had wanted to engulf students in flame. He saw red right there, and had used Fiendfyre without any hesitation. The spell, reputedly dark, feasted on the body of the winged beasts and burned them to a crisp. Dumbledore remembered what it was now to use dark forces, dark spells for the sake of loved ones; for those whom you've got to protect. Harder still to resist the desire to use them again and again, the simplicity they represented. It was so much more of a sacrifice to do what must be done, without losing yourself in it, than to swear to stay pure eternally and leave the dirty business to others.
Albus, wounded, managed to concentrate and send another searching tongue of burning energy crackling in the night air to viciously rip the wings off of another dragon as he passed by. Albus' eyes showed some strain as he forced his wand down, resisting the urge to try it against another, further away, just to see if he could. He had done enough. The Order and his valiant students, of whom there were at least six still in flight, would manage the rest.
He turned toward another battleground, knowing there was no chance that he, in his current state, nor anybody else in Britain, could approach. Spells were flying around, bouncing off Harry's scythe. Voldemort was casting them in chains. Thankfully, killing curses were close range combat spells, and disappeared after missing their target a few dozen meters away. A rainbow of colors seemed to flash all around the two fighters, who were dancing around each other in an effort to preserve their lives. He could only stand there, a burn on his left leg preventing him from joining the fight, simply keeping his attention on not being cut down just by standing in this dangerous location. He felt he should summon a broom and get back into the air, or at least get back to the school to be healed. But something told him he had an obligation to watch. The turning point of the war, the main conclusion, was happening there, right before his eyes. It wouldn't be like last time, when he was watching a movie in the Projection Room, and had missed the punchline of the movie by going to the loo.
Harry was sweating bullets. Now this was straining! His mind hurt merely for trying to follow all the moves! Tom was hurling spells at a speed that exceeded anything he had ever seen! Harry was still thinking now and then of Luna and Fleur, keeping his aura active, pushing back the dark aura that Voldemort's rage kept emitting.
He was blocking spells with his scythe, both with the blade and with the handle that he held with both hands. In a normal battle, that would be unnecessary. Right now, the strength of each spell was pushing him back. The killing curses were the worst. He tried dodging them, but that often led him into the path of another curse, or string of curses. Tom even went so far as to try blowing up the ground from under him! Harry apparated behind Voldemort once, but in the time it took to concentrate and get his bearings back from the change of position, Voldemort had already found him and taken advantage of his instability to hail more spells upon him!
Stalemate was the best term to describe the situation. While Riddle tried to curse him, kill him, trip him or rip him apart, Harry either dodged or blocked the jets of light, even sending some of them back in his direction – a purely offensive face with an impenetrable defense. But while Tom was spending magical energy that he still had in spades, Harry was feeling the toll on his body with each passing curse. He couldn't keep this up forever! He had to find an edge, to trigger a change of situation. Harry felt the answer was inside his cloak pocket: his wand. He had to grab it and surprise Voldemort by sending something back. Ouch, that cutting curse managed to get past his armor! He had to figure something out fast! There was no time to think, just react!
Harry's right hand let go of the scythe just as a killing curse was deflected once more, pushing the weapon back to the end of Harry's left arm's reach. As Tom took this wide opening into account and decided which spell to use, Harry's free hand dove inside his cloak, grabbing his own wand. Voldemort's eyes widened in surprise, and he whipped his wand back to send a powerful blasting spell. Harry's wand was already in position to send his spell as it left the protection of the cloak. He simply whipped it at the ground before him, shouting some incoherent war-cry.
The result was impressive as all the dirt and rocks on the ground simply lifted forward into the air, showering the Dark Lord in a sonic boom. Harry had found this spell that caused the after-effect of an explosion without the destructive force. It was the ultimate diversion. It took Tom by surprise; he raised his arm to shield his eyes from the dust and, he had to admit, in a knee-jerk reaction, to the sound.
Harry capitalized on his position, both arms spread, his left hand gripping the end of his scythe handle. He was at his maximum reach. He swung his scythe in a rising motion as hard and fast as he could in front of him, jumping forward. He felt the resistance on his weapon, one that was physical. Blood poured from the severed limb of the dark wizard, and a yell escaped him unchecked as pain flooded his senses. He wasn't in a normal state, though. The dark aura around him concentrated all of his dark emotion into battle power, and the next curse was the deadly one. Harry somehow managed to get his scythe to finish the move in front of him, but the power pushed him onto his back, on the ground, and sent his weapon flying behind him, the runes once blazing on it dimming from the loss of contact with its master.
Harry knew Voldemort was going to die from his wound, if only he could last long enough for him to bleed to death. Could he last that long? He already had to get up and dodge the incoming spells. He cast protego spells one after the other, trying to block what could be blocked and dodging what couldn't be. The face of the Dark wizard was a contorted mask of rage as he poured his emotions into his attack. Harry managed to dodge two spells in a row, and took the chance to cast an offensive spell instead of a defensive one. His blasting curse collided with the identical one of Voldemort. What happened was truly unexpected by both parties.
A strand of pure magic connected their wands, both duelists feeling their weapons stuck in their hands. At the same time, they were shaking so much that they had to hold on to them with all their strength. A golden dome engulfed them and they could hear, somehow, a phoenix song. Harry's aura basked in it, while Voldemort's dark one seemed to struggle to keep its consistency. Magical pearls of energy seemed to travel along the link, but Harry didn't care much about them. The connection was stopping Tom from casting anything. He pushed forward, both hands on his wand, slowly walking toward Voldemort. His will to win made the pearls slide toward Voldemort, who battled against the current, trying his best to stop the inevitable. Seeing this small victory, Harry pushed onward, his fighting spirit soaring. Five steps away. Four. Three. Harry let go of his wand with his right hand with great pain and, once again, went to grab something from under his cloak. Two steps. One. The pearls stopped moving on the strand that was now a mere five inches long. The stream of magic seemed to be traveling both ways simultaneously, pearls jumping around. Voldemort screamed as his aura was ripped to shreds upon contact with Harry's.
Harry pulled his smaller scythe from under his cloak, raised it, and stabbed Tom Riddle through the top of his skull. The sudden lack of any active opposing force, the next moment, sent Harry tumbling forward on the ground. He raised his head, looking around. There was no more dome of golden light; no more strand of pure magic. His aura had vanished. It scattered in the night air. The Darkest Wizard of the last generation was lying on the ground, almost at Harry's side, his head pierced by his golden gardening tool. Harry struggled a little and snapped out of his daze. He grasped the handle of his small scythe and pulled hard. Blood dripped from the wound and the blade of the small weapon. He summoned The Potter scythe and, for good measure, chopped off Voldemort's head; sending it rolling away. Harry was kind of wary. Was it all over? Just like that? Only one horcrux was left now. Did the piece of soul that had been in this body still have the chance to roam around, possessing people?
He turned toward the castle, and the vision of his home still standing against all odds was a warming sight. Looking up, he saw people on brooms chasing the last dragon, who seemed to be concentrating hard on dodging…something. He couldn't quite see from where he stood. He did what was expressly forbidden in every manual: he apparated, with the destination being in mid-air. He stayed like that, no momentum pulling him down for a half-second, as he appeared right in the flying path of the fire-breathing monster. It had no time to put on the brakes or to dodge; and it barely even saw him before it was too late. Its sight wasn't its sharpest sense, after all. Harry swung his scythe before him, cutting the dragon neatly in two, down its whole length as it flew right at him. Harry, feeling gravity take back control over his body, apparated away once again, safely onto the ground. The split carcass of the dragon landed a few meters in front of him, spreading blood and gore.
Harry looked around and finally saw no real threats left. He vanished his cloak, armor and scythe away to their storing case and walked calmly toward the great door. He sent a few spider-killer rays, and told the snakes all around that they'd better get out of here before things got nasty. Once in front of the door, he knocked.
"Hello? Anybody up? I seem to have lost my key! Could you open up?"
A few weeks later, Harry was sipping a slushy at the newly rebuilt Fortescue's. He had financed it all, on the condition that they also served muggle forms of soft drinks and summer refreshments. It was more than a whole month now since Tom Riddle had been cut down, and Dumbledore was still managing to evade his questions, pretending to be busy working with the Minister at reorganizing the Wizarding World. But how could he resist an invitation from Harry to Fortescue's to test out his new line of muggle sweets? Harry found out earlier that he had his own hammock waiting for him at Fortescue's, and a life-time supply of free slushies. Dumbledore sat next to his table, where empty glasses were stacking up. Harry had come two hours early to work on his tan. The day was perfect.
"Haaaa… My boy. You seem to be enjoying life! Good…good…" Albus said, looking away once more.
Harry glanced at him and then cast a slight privacy charm around them. He didn't care to hide much. It simply stopped people from hearing about sensitive subjects like the Horcruxes.
"Yeah. I'm having a blast. In fact, more like a lay down than a blast. Yup. I don't let the fact that I've got Voldemort's last piece of soul in my head deter me."
Dumbledore looked up at him suddenly, looking alarmed.
"What?" said Harry, opening an eye and raising an eyebrow. "You really thought I would never figure it all out? Why my compass always pointed to me at first? How our connection was even possible? He had to have left something in me for it to happen. I cancelled the charm on my compass lately. It pointed at me without the hint of a doubt."
"Harry…" started Dumbledore.
"So you figured out that part too, hmm? 'Neither can live while the other survives'? We missed that point from the start. Either we'd both live, like we did during a solid sixteen years until now, or we'd both die."
Albus looked at the ground, a lone tear escaping him as he nodded. People passing near them gave them a wide berth. It must be some serious matter for the Headmaster to look so down.
"I don't believe in the 'no-win scenario', Al. I'll find a way. I'm going to rune myself some kind of soul extractor. It's going to be the most delicate work I'll be up against, as the operation must be performed with surgical precision. I don't want to lose a part of my own soul in the process!"
"DIE, Potter, DIE!" yelled Bellatrix, who suddenly appeared from the other side of the street, casting the familiar looking green curse. Harry froze like a deer in the headlights, and fell on his hammock, limp, his eyes empty.
Harry awoke with a start. He looked around, breathing fast. What looked like an empty train station surrounded him – totally empty, and way too clean. He tried to remember what had happened last before he fell asleep…
"Bloody hell, you must be fucking kidding me!" he yelled into the empty space. He was dead! Killed by that psycho bitch in his hammock in a public place! What a mark he'd leave in the history books! Harry Potter, saviour of the Light, killed while slurping a slushy. Fantastic. He looked down at a small, ugly form that looked like a house-elf on one of his bad days, shaking naked on the tiled floor. Harry recognized it for what it was.
"You li'l fucker! All o' this is your fault, you slimy son of a…"
"Language, son. It hasn't been two minutes you've been here that we've had quite our fill of your colorful choice of words. Don't make me ask Honey here to wash your mouth out with a bar of soap!"
Harry slowly turned around, shaking with anticipation.
'No. No way. It can't be.'
The pair standing not five feet from him smiled as he launched himself on them, in this dimension where hugging your dead parents was possible.
The street was in a state of utter chaos. Albus had to admit he had been a little bit responsible for it, but he didn't care right now. He had his back turned from the still standing lower part of Bellatrix, what was left from his blasting curse, to look at his protégé. He had done a terrible job there. He walked back, taking the young boy in his old arms, still so full of life just one second ago. He had been willing to fight his way to live, never giving up before any new obstacle, proving he had the courage to stare down even at Death. It was over now. He swore to himself he would die before the boy, in just retribution for the evil he had let loose on the world. Harry had already done so much, and was still willing to do so much.
A groan stopped his self-loathing dead in its tracks. The once-dead boy was moaning, as if waking up from a deep slumber. His eyes, still as vibrant as they had been, opened to look at the sun shining upon him.
"Whaaaa? Hmm. Yeah. Dead in a hammock. Right."
"Ha-Ha-Harry?" asked Albus, unsure.
"Hey! My name is no laughing matter, ol' man! My parents gave it to me! By the way, they say 'Hi'."
Harry spared a look at Bellatrix, wincing.
"Whoa. You didn't do things half-way there, if I may say so."
Fortescue ran out of his shop, looking around, trying to find the source of the commotion.
"What is it? What happened?" he asked, looking around.
"It's a tragedy, Fort-man!" said Harry, turning toward him. "I'm all out of slushy! Could you fill me another glass? I have a report to make to the Minister."
Fort-man, as Harry had taken to calling him, looked at the remains of a body, on the other side of the alley, and at his unfazed client.
"Right away, Harry. On the house, as usual. Don't worry about that. On the house…" Food and sweets, Fortescue remembered. He better focus on that, and leave all other matters to the ones who knew how to handle them.
Harry took out a small mirror and traced a rune on the bottom with one finger. A worried figure appeared.
"Ha…Harry? Is that really you?" asked the unbelieving figure of the Minister of Magical Britain. Quite a lot of capital letters in that title too. Harry smiled easily.
"What, did you hear otherwise? Maybe that I was killed in broad daylight by a Death Eater? Believe me, that particular threat is no more. Albus made sure of that."
"I only received the news seconds ago! They said you received a killing curse straight to the chest!"
Harry's eyes became as hard as steel.
"It already happened to me once, Minister. I survived. What makes you think that was a fluke?"
Harry's demeanour changed back to carefree as if nothing had occurred.
"If you need anything, I'm at Fortescue's for the remainder of his business hours! I've discovered that I have a sweet tooth!"
Harry closed the connection and lay back in his hammock, looking pensive. He turned half-way to Albus, who was looking at him questioningly.
"Hey…Don't look at me like that, you're the one of your generation. You know, the insanely powerful wizard, a little bit crazy, that nobody knows how to handle? The one that nobody knows what you know and what you don't? What you've figured out and what you have planned? I'm done trying to get people to understand me. I'm going to be messing with their heads some. Then they'll be the one trying to figure me out. But the funnier thing is…"
And then he smiled widely, smiling at the sun above.
"I don't care."
They stood like that for a while, simply hearing the commotion die down, the Aurors and staff of St. Mungo's coming by for testimony and to clean up the remains. Harry promised himself to give generously for all the trouble he had caused, and probably still would. He answered most questions they asked cryptically – saying things like, 'I just got a life-time supply of slushy; I was not about to let it be cut short!' as to why he didn't die. When they pressed the matter, he said he simply fought against it like the first time he had faced it, when he was one, and won. It acted like a flu shot back then, and now he was immune. They looked at him doubtfully, trying to figure out if he was joking or not; but they couldn't tell.
Dumbledore was about to go 'fix things,' as he said; but Harry put a hand on his arm as he was getting up.
"Sit down, old man. It is time you let others do the work. I took care of your past mistake. It's over. You're forgiven. You can rest. Enjoy what's left of your days. You can never know which one's going to be the last."
Albus sat down tentatively. The world kept on turning. He leaned back in his chair. He got his wand out and transfigured it into a beach lounging chair, and his robe into baggy shorts and T-shirt. His muscles seemed to lose decades of tension. Harry lifted a finger up, pointed to Albus over his head, and then raised it up again and made a circular motion. He didn't even look but knew that the owner of the sweet shop understood. One more slushy, for the old man, on my tab.
"You know…You're full of wisdom for your young age, Mr. Potter," said the Headmaster, who received his share of looks – especially from passing students.
"Call me Mr. Potter once more, Oh Supreme Mugwump…"
Albus chuckled merrily.
"I don't think I'll keep that title very long, Harry. I'll probably change it for a more honorific title like…Counsellor Dumbledore. Much less responsibility and power."
A comfortable silence settled between the two.
"And maybe…after the next year at Hogwarts… I could switch positions with Professor McGonagall and be a simple Transfiguration teacher…for a few years…before…"
Harry turned toward the Headmaster to see him falling asleep, an air of peace like he had never seen on his face before.
Harry smiled and turned back to his sweets, thinking of the future.
Harry Potter was struggling, climbing a high mountain. There was no path upward, so he had to do this manually. He was quite in shape, but this was an exercise he wasn't used to. The face he chose for the climb was more like a smooth cliff than a rocky side. There was nothing to grab on to – not that it mattered to him. He blew a strand of blond hair from his face before pressing his hand upon the rock above his head, moulding it under until it fit as a perfect hold. He had learned long ago to make it large enough for his foot to fit into when he was going to propel himself upward.
The climb took well over two hours, with a few pauses to catch his breath. He took the time to take a few pictures with his glasses, pressing the small rune embedded in them. The view up here was incredible! He had never been so high up in his entire life! He was glad not to be particularly afraid of heights. He finally reached his destination, a cave that opened in the flank near the top, with only a fifteen foot ledge separating it from a fall of many hundreds of feet. He shuddered at the thought. He brought an arm up and pulled out his wand from a wand holster that sat on a bracer which covered his whole right arm. He touched the bracer with the tip of his wand in a specific way that seemed natural to him. Numbers appeared out of thin air, graphs and symbols that must have been making sense to him. He couldn't immediately register everything they said, so he checked them twice.
"How strange…and interesting. Let's see how the entrance reacts."
Harry did something his teachers never thought anyone could do, especially at fourteen years old. He simply drove his hand into the rock, moulding it easier than clay, and fashioned himself a real-looking dog within a span of three minutes. The transfigured beast looked at him as Harry gave it a mental push to go and explore the cave.
The primordial beast obeyed without a hint of hesitation. Harry used his monitoring device, which was sporting the logo of the Weasley brothers' company, to check the progress of the earth-dog. He was fine, as far as he was concerned. He passed some wards that just didn't activate. He got further to a final one…and then he lost all trace of the signal. Incredible! The guy who warded the cave must have thought to secure the floor and ceiling, since the device was designed to exploit such weaknesses. It was in the warranty manual.
Harry decided that, since he hadn't heard anything, either the ward had deactivated his dog or it had passed through safely – or the sounds were muffled by other wards. He walked confidently into the cave, raising his eyes to see the rune work covering the walls. Looking at them all was going to give him a headache! Were those moving on their own? A self-updating ward? Magnificent! He could spend hours just looking at them! If only he had a clue of what they meant. He would have to ask his parents for more pocket money when all of this was over, to buy the Rune-Reading update for his bracer. It would have been useful right now, but he guessed this was way beyond the capability of the usual wards and rune-work.
He stopped a few inches before what he knew to be the limit of the ward that his dog had disappeared behind. The corridor kept on going for a while before it got too dark to see anything.
"Lumos," said Harry in a clear, calm voice, almost dreamily. He touched his glasses once again, and the simple reading he got from them sent him laughing. He was being read by the ward! Even though it acted low to the ground, it was active two feet before the actual ward line! He resumed his progress, figuring that if he was still there, unharmed, he must have passed the 'test' of the ward; there was nothing new there. He found that luck was usually on his side in this kind of situation. As soon as he passed the line, the view changed. Gone was the dark cave. Unperturbed, he simply cancelled the lumos charm and petted his earth-dog that was looking up at him pleadingly, asking for forgiveness since he couldn't go back to report to him. A one-way ward…
"Anybody home?" Harry asked loudly, drinking in the surroundings with his curious eyes. A low, Japanese-style wooden table sat in the middle of the room with many cushions lying around it. Bookcases were standing throughout the room, and there were even some with two sides in the middle of the room, heavily laden with leather-bound books – the kind that you write in yourself. The walls had runes carved on them in a seemingly random pattern – random since they seemed to travel alongside of him, taking animated form before breaking up and joining with others. It hurt his eyes to look. Harry didn't dare activate his magical sensors in such a place. He had paid a very large amount of money for those gadgets, thank you.
Tapestries of many origins seemed to be hung all around. That one must be African. This one was Egyptian for sure; and this…was this even from earth?
"Well, don't just stand there! Come and take a seat!"
Harry looked back at the table where a very, very old man sat. How did he get there without him noticing? Or rather, had he been there the whole time? Or did he simply decide to let himself be seen? Harry wordlessly sat on a cushion, his leg folded under him.
"Do you have some cola? The climb was quite draining."
The old man raised one of his white, bushy eyebrows and waved toward him. A Chinese cup stood before him, cola bubbling inside. He himself was sipping from a straw inserted in a Japanese sake cup with what looked like…slushy…in it. Taking a sip, Harry used that moment to consider his host: not that tall, probably shortened with age. He was wearing a very old pattern of robes…probably from somewhere in South America, or something like that. He had never seen anyone quite like him. His eyes were of a vibrant green, the kind that revealed a complex mind that saw so much, you could get lost just skimming his surface thoughts. He possessed the smile of someone who simply knew. He glanced to the side, and saw something more than unusual. The biggest couch he had ever seen, made of mixed straw, fine herbs and Galleons, rested on the side. The thing his mind hadn't registered at first was the majestic dragon resting on it. It was asleep for now.
"Guests are so rare these days. Very rare indeed. Most people only search for this place when they have something to ask. And they can enter only if I feel they are worthy of being helped. You look like… someone I knew before."
"I don't think you know me or my parents. If we had a dragon-breeding uncle of some sort, I might have taken note of it," said Harry, in a conversational tone.
"Really? Pardon my mistake then. What's your name?"
"Harry Potter, sir. Delighted meeting you. And who might you exactly be?" said Harry, tilting his head to the side.
The old man lost his tongue for a moment before a smile grew on his lips.
"Harry Potter, you say…The son of…William Potter and Christina Wilson, aren't you?"
"Those were my grandparents, sir," answered Harry, showing no surprise at all that he knew some of his family.
"Grandparents…time flies so fast… Well, in exchange for not knowing my name, I'll grant you what you came here for!"
"Didn't I earn that already, from your own words earlier?"
The old man laughed, head thrown back. He took a sip of his sugary beverage, looking at the blond boy intently. Luna's blood wasn't lost…
"I came for the Potter Scythe," said Harry, not waiting for an answer he knew would never come.
"The Potter Scythe, no less! And what makes you think you need such a powerful tool to achieve your goal?" asked the old man, more serious than he let on.
"The Prophecy said so. 'Weapon of the ancestor to help the far offspring. To put the soul to rest with a swift kick in the ass.'"
"The prophecy said that?" asked the elder, eyebrows shooting up.
"It's my own interpretation, sir."
"What soul exactly do you have to slay?"
"It's a long story. One you might know of. A shield made by my great-great-grandfather Potter, from whom I inherited the name, was used in a dark ritual to hold a part of the soul of Bane, the centaur traitor. Long ago, after he killed Firenze and took control of the centaur tribes, he asked a young dark wizard, Grek Goyle, to perform the Horcrux ritual on him so he could live forever. The spell went wrong as Grek wasn't skilled enough to split the soul of the centaur. The whole of it was sealed in the shield that was once given to Firenze, the Father of all centaurs. The artifact was lost, and the centaurs managed to get over this under the leadership of the twin daughters of Firenze who studied at Hogwarts, bringing magic to the centaurs. One of Bane's descendants, wanting to exact revenge for this stain on their family, searched for the shield to prove his ancestor's innocence, and that it was all a scheme of the Dark Wizard Grek. He found the shield, and now he is possessed by the soul of Bane. The shield isn't vulnerable to conventional magic or physical attack. Vast, the possessed vessel of Bane, was in top-condition shape, and was a skilful warrior. A group of Aurors went to battle him, led by someone wielding the Gryffindor Sword. He lost in a show of skill to Vast-Bane. Now, he has the shield and the Sword. The only thing able to defeat him now is something rumoured to be stronger than either the shield…or the Gryffindor sword. I need the Potter Scythe, as only a true Potter can wield it."
"And…you are a true Potter? Only one way to find out."
The old man raised an arm and a wicked looking weapon appeared out of thin air. He lowered it in front of him, presenting it to the young man. The fourteen-year-old Harry Potter looked at the legendary object presented to him and, holding his breath, took it from the elder's hands. The runes that were almost flaming on it dimmed a lot, but they were still glowing – more than on any other rune work Harry had ever seen before getting here.
Harry got up slowly and began to twirl the weapon around carefully. It seemed to be an extension of himself, answering his thoughts…The power in it was unbelievable. The old man nodded appreciatively.
"The Potter Scythe…to a true Potter. As it should be. You've earned the right to wield it. It has judged you worthy."
"Thank you, granddad."
"Granddad?" The old man asked playfully.
"Great-great-granddad is kinda long and impersonal, don't you think?" said Harry, smiling smartly, still testing out his skills with the weapon.
"What gave me away?" asked the original Harry Potter.
"Your eyes, when you asked me to take a seat. No one else would have the green eyes of Harry Potter, in a cave reputed to hold the Potter Scythe."
"Smart boy. Now go. And tell Bane that you came back to end the life I mercifully spared back then."
The young Potter nodded and turned to head back.
"Thank you, Granddad! Thanks for the cola!" he said loudly before passing the ward, vanishing from sight.
A voice resonated in Harry's head as his great-great-grandson left his cave.
"So it is time? Already?"
Harry turned his head toward the dragon, who opened her eyes and looked at him sadly.
"Of course, for you, now, it's 'already'. You should ask any other dragon if they see time as you do!"
"You're the sole one to blame in this case, Master."
Harry began laughing his head off. Magic was swirling in the room, turning around Harry as he lifted himself in a concert of cracking bones.
"Ouch! That'll teach me to meditate for more than a year!"
The man took a few unsteady steps until he reached a crystal couch in the back. He lay back on it while the magic in the room took over. Dust was leaving out the door, and books got their share of protective and time-preserving charms. The routine was all written in a last-effect rune cluster.
"Talk to me, Sweetie, as this part of my soul is getting further away from me."
"I knew that it was the only thing keeping you alive, that Scythe. It was impossible otherwise. Tell me now: did you put so much of your life into it that it became the light version of a Horcrux, Master?"
Harry sighed as he felt his mind get more numb.
"No…Of course not. It's just…Magic. Very old magic. It was part of me, yet it was not. It was storing life force of mine that I used to extend my lifetime, while it was taking its energy from me. It was…my greatest creation. One that I never…totally understood…myself…"
The dragon looked at her master as he peacefully died, ending a long life full of achievement. She knew it was her duty to guard this place, forever; to give access to its treasure to the worthy, and burn up the intruder.
The last mechanism activated itself, and Sweetie couldn't help but grin widely, sighing at her master's antics.
The couch got flooded by some kind of liquid that took a solid, predetermined form as it stopped moving. Outside, at the base of the mountain that the young Potter had left behind, the ground exploded. It ripped away all its vegetation cover, as something shot out the top of the mountain at an incredible speed and height. It went so high it disappeared from sight before falling back down, twirling. It landed perfectly straight, digging deep into the newly-moulded ground. It was a gigantic, perfect crystal shard, fifty feet high, that had the body of Harry James Potter encased in it, thanks to an insane amount of crystal essence. A second object shot from the top of the mountain with a small popping noise, and landed right in front of it. It was a commemorative plate written by the hand of Harry Potter himself, carved in a white stone with purple moving dots. The place became, as soon as it was discovered, a huge tourist spot.
People couldn't stop shaking their heads, smiling, as they read the huge plate:
'Did you know that back then, I, Harry Potter, became one of the youngest Quidditch seekers in history? I almost swallowed the snitch in my first game! Come back tomorrow for more stories of Harry Potter!'