A/N: Well, this is my first fic in a really long time. This is a story I've had on my mind for years, and it finally came out the way I wanted. :)
There are only a few notes about this story. Essentially, everything in the books is valid, up until pg.550 of Deathly Hallows. This is where my story begins.
Enjoy! Constructive criticism is vastly appreciated!
They were back in Dumbledore's office, the windows dark, and Fawkes sat silent as Snape sat quite still, as Dumbledore walked around him, talking.
"Harry must not know, not until the last moment, not until it is necessary, otherwise how could he have the strength to do what must be done?"
"But what must he do?"
"That is between Harry and me. 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?"
Dumbledore took a deep breath and closed his eyes.
"Tell him that on the night Lord Voldemort tried to kill him-"
Harry found himself struggling against an unseen force, fighting to keep his body in the memory, the most important memory he was ever to see. Something was pulling him back from the other side, a soft, panicked voice and the pressure of what felt like a hand on his shoulder. The image in front of him grew fuzzy and bright, until all he could see was white, all he could hear was a faint buzzing of ambient sound.
He fell backwards on the stone floor, his back leaning against the familiar panelling of Dumbledore's desk. He looked around frantically. Hermione stood a few feet in front of him, her arm outstretched, reaching towards him. It had been her arm he felt, her voice calling to him, pulling him back. Ron stood at her side.
Harry screwed up his face, prepared to yell, scream, do whatever he had to so he could finish watching the memory. He needed to see it, these were Dumbledore's final words for Harry. He opened his mouth, but before any sound could escape between his pursed lips a great boom sounded and shook Hogwarts to its very foundations. Trinkets fell off shelves, paintings dislodged themselves from walls, sending their occupants tumbling out of the frame and into adjacent portraits.
It seemed as though he were watching in slow motion as the Pensieve rocked on its pedestal and came crashing to the ground, sending it's silvery contents spilling out of the bowl and evaporating into the air. Harry sprung towards the bowl, but there was nothing he could do. He grasped wildly at the air, trying in vain to collect any little piece of the memory that he could.
He stood stiffly, fists clenched at his sides, jaw tight, his back towards his two companions. His head swam, his vision became cloudy. He leaned over Dumbledore's desk, his palms flat on the surface. "Shit!" He cried, bursting out, kicking the desk hard. The rich panelling cracked.
"Harry, I'm sorry I interrupted you, but-"
"But nothing, Hermione!" Harry spun towards her, his voice harsh. "I was this close to finding out exactly what Dumbledore wanted me to do, this fucking close!" He held his finger and thumb apart slightly and shoved his hand in Hermione's face.
"Harry, stop! Please listen to me. Your time is almost up, you only have fifteen minutes. We were lucky to find you like we did, nobody knew where you went. People are dying out there Harry, you need to-"
"You think I don't know what's going on out there Hermione?" Harry voice grew weak as the fight faded out of him. He couldn't stay mad at his best friend who only wished him the best. "I'm trying the best I can here, but I just don't know what to do. That memory of Snape's was the only thing I had guiding me, but now I have nothing and I-"
"You have us, mate." Ron stepped forward and clapped his hand reassuringly on Harry's shoulder.
Hermione nodded her support, wiping tears from her face. "Truly, Harry, I'm sorry, I forgot that-"
"I know Hermione, I know. It's okay." Harry reassured her. "We'll figure it out somehow. We always do."
"You need to make a decision Harry, your time's almost up. Will you go to him, or will you stay with us?" She asked hesitantly, not sure she liked either answer.
"Look, guys, whatever I decide, I can't ask you to come with me anymore. It's too dangerous and I-"
"Harry Potter, don't think that you're getting rid of us now." Ron barked out a laugh which didn't reach his eyes. His cheeks were tearstained and Harry remembered that he had just been with his family at the side of Fred's body.
Harry nodded, he couldn't refuse his friends their right to be part of this. "Right, let's go down there together." He glanced at the slightly crooked grandfather clock in the corner of Dumbledore's office and noted the time. "Shit, we've only got a few minutes left. We need to go, now."
Harry's eyes travelled around the perimeter of the room, drinking in every last sight he could, scouring the space for anything, great or small, he may have missed. A glint of silver and rubies caught his eye and without thinking, he grabbed the Sword of Gryffindor, clutching it tightly in his right hand.
The three teens jogged out of the office and into the dark corridors. It was slow going. Whatever spell had hit the castle and caused it to shudder had brought down walls and statues, making it extremely difficult to navigate the stone corridors. Arriving back in the entrance hall, a great voice once again rose over the grounds of Hogwarts.
"Your time is up, Harry Potter!" The voice slithered, invading every set of ears on the grounds. "Your lack of regard for your fellow students surprises me, Harry, but I suppose it's only to be expected from one so young. Perhaps you won't mind then if I follow through on my end of the bargain. It's a pity that I will have to cut down dozens of fine wizards to get to you. Such a waste of fine magical talent. I will find you, Harry Potter."
"No!" Harry shouted desperately. He pointed his wand at the wooden double doors and without uttering a spell, they flung open wildly, slamming into the stone masonry surrounding them. He bolted out the doors, Ron and Hermione close on his heels.
Chaos raged all around them, spells of every colour whizzing by at frightening speeds. They trio sent off their own spells in every direction, some contacting, others missing and slamming to trees and statues. Death Eaters filled every gap in the crowd, there wasn't a moment where one was not visible. Voldemort had been holding back, his numbers were far greater then Harry had ever imagined. He didn't have time to think upon the situation, but it suddenly occurred to him that they were going to be hard pressed for them to all come out of this in tact.
In all the commotion, it didn't seem to Harry that anyone noticed him in particular. It was as though Voldemort had never expected him to return. In that assumption, Voldemort had revealed a weakness, he underestimated Harry. He underestimated his determination to see this through.
All that was left now, as far as Harry knew at the time, was that he had to destroy the sixth horcrux, he had to find the snake and kill it, leaving the seventh and final part of Voldemort's soul, Voldemort himself, vulnerable and mortal once again.
He could still sense Ron and Hermione following close behind him, their breathing just as heavy as his was. They had steadily moved closer to the outskirts of the Forbidden Forest. The Death Eaters were less dense here, but had more places to hide and sneak.
All three stopped for a moment, resting to regain their stamina and assess the situation. It only took a moment for their lapse in concentration to be exploited and they quickly found themselves surrounded by half a dozen hooded, masked Death Eaters. The Eaters experience in combat gave them the upper hand and Ron, Hermione and Harry found themselves quickly separated. In the darkness it didn't seem like the Eaters knew who they had cornered.
Harry dodged and blocked various spells and managed to fire off a quick stupefy, bringing the Death Eater in front of him to the ground. The red light from the spell had momentarily lit up the surrounding area and one Death Eater got a good view of Harry's face.
"My Lord!" The man called, quickly touching the tip of his wand to his forearm. The man's long, platinum hair shone in the moonlight and Harry immediately knew who the masked Death Eater was. "Harry Potter is here!"
Instantly there was a loud crack and a smoky figure billowed into existence. Lord Voldemort, his flowing robes trailing behind him, seemed to glide over the surface of the ground as he moved slowly towards Harry.
Harry stood stiff on the spot, unsure of what to do next. Hermione's scream distracted him and he turned to see her kneeling on the ground, a Death Eater standing behind her, his wand pointed at her neck. Ron was similarly incapacitated by another Death Eater.
"Well, well, Harry Potter. Guilty conscience finally convince you to face me yourself? Couldn't bear the thought of innocent people dying for you? How noble of you. You know, you had me thinking that there is another layer underneath what everybody sees, another side to Harry Potter the world would rather not see. I think he is in there, begging to be set free. Only, it's too bad you won't live long enough to find out how dominant that side is. It's only you and me now, Harry Potter. Neither can live while the other survives. You know what that means, it's time for you to die now, once and for all. Nobody here to save you this time, Potter."
Harry's eyes were finally starting to adjust to the dark of the night and for the first time he noticed that something on Voldemort's neck and shoulders was moving. Nagini was curled up tight against her master, he was not letting her out of his sight. Now was the time he should have been able to use the information from Snape's memory.
His mind raced frantically as to how he would ever get close enough to Nagini, not to mention try to hack it to pieces while she was still wrapped firmly around Voldemort shoulders.
"You underestimate me and the value I place on my friend's lives. I would never abandon them to die. This is between you and me, Voldemort, nobody else need be involved."
Voldemort's cool, soulless laugh travelled through the forest like an icy blast. "Oh, young Harry, so naive. Anyone who associates themselves with you deserves the same fate as yourself." Voldemort reached into the sleeve of his gossamer robe and removed his wand, positioning himself in a duelling stance. Harry stood still. "Come now, Harry, duelling stance."
"If you expect me to show you civility-"
"No, Harry, what I expect is a little obedience! Now, I've tried to do this like a gentleman, but you're forcing me to take the easy way." He grinned. His wand was waved and flicked in such a split instant that Harry had not a second to respond. "Avada Kedavra!" Voldemort screamed and the jet of bright green light hurtled towards Harry as it had so many times before.
Harry could not move, could not react quickly enough to do anything to avoid the green jet of light. It caught him square in the chest and he went down in a flash, though to Harry it felt as though the time he was hit to the time he struck the ground dragged on for an eternity. He heard Hermione scream as he fell.
A strange tingling sensation overcame him as soon as the green beam hit him, and though he no longer had any control over his body, he was not dead. He lay sprawled on the forest floor, face down, the Sword of Gryffindor wedged uncomfortably underneath him. He was dazed, he couldn't move, he couldn't think, but he was still alive.
He heard everything happening around him and decided he would simply lay there and listen, see what happened next.
He could hear the wailing and yelling all around him, obviously from those on his side. Strangely, the forest had become eerily silent other than that. Like none of the Death Eaters wanted to move, like even Voldemort was hesitant about his seemingly easy victory.
"Is... is he dead?" Voldemort's clear voice rang through the trees of the enchanted forest. Harry could hear leaves shuffle and twigs break as he moved towards Harry. "Draco, check him. Make sure there's no life left in him."
"Y-yes, My Lord. Of course." A shaky, weak voice responded. Harry thought it hardly sounded like the voice of the Draco he had known and hated for the previous seven years. This Draco sounded scared and intimidated.
Harry heard the light footsteps move towards him and he had to concentrate extremely hard to not accidently twitch or take a sudden deep breath. Draco stumbled on a rock on his way to Harry's side.
He knelt down next to Harry's head, his body blocking the sight line between Voldemort and Harry. Placing his fingers gently on Harry's neck to feel for a pulse, he leaned his head close to Harry's. "Don't move. I know you're alive. You've saved many lives, mine twice just tonight, and I'm sure you're bound to save more, but right now there's nothing you can do. Just trust me. Let me save you."
Harry could not respond, and didn't know what he would have said if he could. His mind was screaming a million things that wanted to be said. 'No, just leave me, I can't leave my friends!', 'Please, take me away, I've had enough.', 'Why are you doing this?'
"Just stay limp." He whispered one last thing before picking up Harry's arm and slinging it over his shoulder. He picked up the sword in his other hand and hauled Harry to his feet, hanging like a rag doll at his side. Draco stared confidently into Voldemort's red slitted eyes and smirked, disapparating with Harry in his arms.
A loud crack tore through the air and the forest was silent only for a moment before Voldemort's deafening roar tore through the night air. He disapparated as well, his Death Eaters following quickly after, leaving the remaining warriors of the light to stare in shock at the spot where their now deceased saviour had stood not three minutes previous. There was nothing they could do now but cry and slowly file back into the ruined castle to grieve and care for those gravely injured in the night's fray.