Questions/Fears Concerning:

A Sequel No, there won't be a sequel. Sorry.


Part 33: Coming to a Head

Severus knew the plan had been initiated the moment his watch gave the faint tremor. He immediately headed to his quarters to wait for Lucius to arrive through the floo. If all went according to plan, Lucius would port-key to an alley in muggle-London before making his way to a magically hidden apartment from the back (available only to those keyed into the wards). From there, he would use the fireplace within to floo to Hogwarts (which was itself heavily warded and specifically keyed — Severus had to 'unlock' it from his end to make it accessible for Lucius).

And so he waited. And waited.

Dread began to fill him just before the fireplace roared to life.

Lucius tumbled out, singed and out of breath. But alive.

Severus hurried to his side and quickly scanned for any curses or undesirable magic. He found nothing, fortunately, so guided Lucius to the nearest chair before summoning a mirror on the side table.

"He's safe. Give us a moment," Severus whispered onto the surface of the mirror before setting it aside and looking at Lucius whose pounding heart was finally beginning to settle.

"He somehow knew I knew. He looked into my eyes and just . . . I don't know. It wasn't quite Legilimency, but it was similar. I can't really explain it and it doesn't matter. I knew when he saw the truth, and I acted, as we discussed. The others immediately followed me. I think they realized what was going on as soon as I did when he tried to have Trent and me bring our sons to him to be questioned about Potter's guardians. What a pitiful ruse," Lucius sneered before he shook his head and raised the tip of his wand to his temple. "Here's the memory. I think it'll be clearer than my words."

Severus placed the memory in a vial to watch later as he glanced to the other mirrors on the fireplace. Hopefully, with any luck, they would all activate soon and would deliver good news. Until then, he needed to inform Dumbledore what had happened and view the memory.

"The mirror to your family is beside you. The mirrors to the others are here," he said, indicating the fireplace as he headed toward the door. "Be ready to answer. Hopefully we'll have news about all of them shortly."

Lucius nodded, gratefully lifting the mirror for him.

"Narcissa," he began.

Severus didn't hear much more as he flooed to the Headmaster's office.

OoOoO

Madam Bones leaned back in her office chair, barely able to believe what Albus Dumbledore had just shown her.

Together, they had leapt into his pensieve he had brought and had witnessed the unbelievable.

Death Eaters (alleged or not) turning against Voldemort — Lucius Malfoy, Trent Goyle, Darol Nott, and Sal Flint.

Sure, there had only been four of them, but that had been enough.

In the large gathering, Lucius initiated the insane battle with a killing curse at the closest Death Eater Madam Bones was sure had been Gibbon. From there, blasting hexes from Flint and Goyle sent over a dozen Death Eaters near flying into the trees, most horrendously striking the unforgiving trunks.

And then there was Nott.

As Pettigrew fell with a bone shattering hex to the face, Nott was dueling (destroying) those around him with fiendfyre. Bones wasn't sure of them all, but knew Dolohov, Barty Crouch Jr., Jugson, and the Lestrange Brothers had been within the inferno.

Meanwhile, Lucius blasted Macnair off his feet as he dodged spells from Voldemort who seemed oblivious to the death around him, choosing to focus only on Malfoy.

That was all the memory revealed before Lucius made it behind a tree and port-keyed away, ending the memory. However, Dumbledore proved, once again, how well informed he was.

Trent Goyle and Sal Flint had both gotten away and were now in hiding with their families. Darol Nott, however, had suffered a grievous injury and was in a secret location being tended to by some trusted healers Dumbledore knew. His son, Theodore Nott, was with him, but it wasn't yet known if he would survive.

As one can imagine, Bellatrix had not been happy with him killing her husband and brother-in-law.

Madam Bones shook her head.

Despite knowing their pasts and their methods, she couldn't help feel a little grateful to Lucius and the three who sided with him. Because of their actions, Voldemort's following had been severely diminished — Bones would even say demolished.

She could only hope the war would now end sooner rather than later, and now with the improved security within the Ministry (such as the wards and alarm system), things were looking up.

OoOoO

Harry had been home a week (home — such a wonderful word), busy reading the book Luna had sent just a few days after Nicholas and Perenelle had picked him up just outside 9 ¾ (in disguise). For Harry, things had started out calm and rather happy, until that Monday.

Near the end of the day, his scar surged with a furious rage that rivaled anything he had ever felt from Voldemort, and that was saying something. He didn't see anything (partly due to his slowly improving shields and Nicholas' mental moat), but what did come across loud and clear was that someone (or a group of someones) was in serious trouble. Voldemort's desire to torture and destroy who had just angered him was undeniable.

Fortunately, it only took a few hours to learn the reason for Voldemort's apparent mood swing, which brought both relief and worry.

He was glad Lucius and the other men had escaped and that their families were now safe in hiding, but, at the same time, he couldn't help but think that his parents had hid from Voldemort and that hadn't turned out all that well, had it?

However, there wasn't anything he could do to help keep them safe directly, and he also knew Professor Snape and the others were doing everything they could to thwart Voldemort. It was some comfort to him as he refocused on his research (doing his best to ignore the constant dull throb in his scar).

He wasn't surprised to find much of 'Etchings of the Elders' well over his head in classic Luna-bizarreness, but some of it was actually quite helpful and rather enlightening.

His lightning bolt scar was actually a rune, a rune called 'Sig'. It symbolized victory and could also be used to represent a triumph of day over night, or good over evil. There were other meanings, but they all ultimately led him to the same thing. His mother had likely selected this rune because she believed it would provide her magic with the strongest focus and purpose. And it had worked. He had lived, and Voldemort had been temporarily defeated.

Now if only he could find out what she had meant when she had said 'I will either be a squib or be dead.'

Well, he still had much of the summer to continue his research and he had not hit a wall that would cause him to seek help from the Flamels or even Professor Snape yet. Which reminded him, he would need to place the Cruciatus protection on his guardians some time before he went back to school.

But back to his research, another thing he had read from the book was that (like the book on Ancient Rites at Hogwarts) intent was the key to using and activating runes. Words and gestures could help focus it, as well as one's wand, but when one got down to the essential component, it was all about one's will and desire.

It certainly made sense to Harry. It was why his mother had used her wand when she pointed to her heart and 'third eye' before tracing the rune on his head. It also explained why he had not heard any 'magic words'. It had all been internal, a silent plea, an unyielding purpose that guided her magic to cloak Harry in the unmatchable shield.

It was understandably more than enough to give Harry a deeper sense of pride for his mother — gaining further understanding of the depth of her strength and love — but it also solidified the solemn longing to have known her.

He wondered if he would be able to ever give as much as she had.

He hoped he was at least capable.

OoOoO

"Neville. Neville! Wake up, get dressed!" his Gran called from the doorway, the light from the hall pouring in. "Dr. Price just floo called."

Neville, already clamoring out of bed, stumbled upon hearing that and caught himself on his dresser. He turned and looked at his grandmother, a million questions in his eyes.

"It's your mother. She's asking for you." Her voice quavered, but in a good way before she turned and continued down the hall.

Neville had never gotten dressed so quickly in his life, though he almost put his shoes on the wrong feet because of his rush.

In what felt like barely a blink in time, he was beside Augusta, ready to apparate to the hospital.

For the past several days, they had visited the hospital every day, hoping his presence and voice would help his parents wake. But day after day, they both remained stubbornly in their healing sleep.

Until now.

Neville all but ran to his parents' room, and it was only thanks to the very early hour that he didn't plow into anyone on his way to the partly open door. Coming to a sudden stop at the threshold, Dr. Price and his grandmother behind him, he was faced with the last thing he ever believed would be possible.

His mother was seated in a wheelchair beside his father's bed holding his limp hand.

He just stood there, mesmerized, until she turned and faced him, somehow sensing his presence.

Tears erupted and he quickly found himself in his mother's arms, both too overjoyed to care about anything else.

Neville had his mother back.

OoOoO

Harry was ecstatic for Neville, and though he wanted to see Alice Longbottom for himself, he understood it was currently time for family only, especially since Frank Longbottom woke two days after Alice.

From the letter he had received from Neville and what he had been told by his guardians (who had been updated by Dumbledore), Alice and Frank had started physical therapy to help them regain whatever function they could after the severe nerve damage and lack of use. Understandably, Alice was doing better than Frank, but it was hoped that Frank would be able to stand, perhaps even walk, by the end of the year.

Unfortunately, the physical was not the only problem Frank currently faced, or the worst. He could barely speak, and the few words he could vocalize came out slurred and broken. For this reason, he was also seeing a speech therapist on top of his daily regimen of stretches and short bouts of physical training. Memory was also an issue, for both of them, but much more so for Frank. From what little he could communicate, they guessed he only remembered snippets from his life, which, according to Dr. Price, was more than they could have realistically hoped for at this stage, given the depth and layers of his damage. However, despite that bit of solace, it was difficult for the Longbottoms.

At times, Frank would look at them in confusion when they would refer to something, like the squid within Hogwarts' Black Lake or Alice's favorite food. And other more simple things, like colors and shapes, it was as if he had to fight to remember or concentrate to relearn them.

All of this, Dr. Price said, was to be expected, but the important thing, as Alice pointed out along with Price, was that they were both better off than they were a year ago and still improving.

Harry liked Alice already.

"Good morning, Harry. Have you gotten another letter from Neville?" Nicholas asked, entering the kitchen.

"Yeah. His parents are doing better every day. He's going to ask Dr. Price if I can visit them next week."

Nicholas smiled as he poured himself some tea and sat beside his wife who had just finished making a late brunch for them. "I'm sure that'll be allowed."

Harry gave an uncertain nod. Neville had confided in him that Dr. Price didn't want to force Frank to meet more new faces than he already had to. Things were hard enough as it was for him.

"Well, anything else interesting come in?" Nicholas asked.

Harry turned to the rest of the mail, which he had set aside on the table, temporarily forgetting it when he saw Neville's handwriting. Pushing aside a letter to Perenelle, his eyes widened at the post beneath.

LONGBOTTOMS AWAKE AND IN CARE OF MUGGLES!

The huge title lay across the front cover of the Daily Prophet with an image of two empty beds Harry recognized as belonging to St. Mungos just below it.

"What's wrong?" Perenelle asked, seeing his face.

"How did they find out?" Harry asked aloud, putting the paper down.

Nicholas slid the paper to himself and began to skim it.

"I'm actually surprised an article hasn't been written about them sooner. They have been absent from St. Mungos for months now. I would have thought someone would have asked about that fact soon after they had been moved to the muggle hospital," Nicholas admitted. "But this is . . . ."

He suddenly glared down at the page.

"Now this is outrageous! They definitely crossed the line here. There's no way they came by that information legally, especially after how hard Augusta has been keeping things private," he said as his wife leaned over to take a look.

"Well, it's no wonder. That venomous witch is the writer of this — that Rita Skeeter," Perenelle hissed before releasing a furious gasp.

"What?" Harry asked, now getting worried for the Longbottoms. "What is it?"

"Somehow, that nasty woman got a hold of their treatment file and publicized it, and her own comments on parts of their treatment . . . and you're mentioned too," she explained.

"It's worse than that," Nicholas stated. "The conniving b—" He cut himself short upon receiving a side glance from his wife. Coral gave a quiet, amused hiss before he continued. "She essentially gave the world their hospital room number, not to mention thier general location, which has no wards or other vital wizarding protections."

Harry grew still, his mind going to Voldemort and the small number of death eaters still alive and loyal, including Bellatrix Lestrange. Would they go after them?

"I'm sure Albus has realized this and is already providing added security for them as we speak," Perenelle assured.

Nicholas nodded. "I agree, but just the same, I'm afraid for the time being any future plans of you visiting them will need to be postponed," he told Harry. "Until Albus is confident Voldemort would find the hospital too difficult to attempt an attack. I'm sorry, Harry."

Harry gave a sigh but agreed with the decision.

Just as he was going to excuse himself to his room (to do more research), an envelope appeared on top of the stack of existing mail.

Understandably, this got his attention, but it's late arrival was not the reason it now had his undivided attention. His name was on it, just below the official looking Ministry of Magic seal.

Knowing their mail was carefully examined by the Flamel elves (hence it appearing instead of being dropped by an owl), he picked it up and opened it, Coral looking on curiously.

Dear Mr. Harry Potter,

It has come to my attention that you were involved in the miraculous recovery of the Longbottoms. Now while I would have preferred to have been privy to the knowledge of their slow progress when it began instead of suddenly learning about it in this morning's paper, I understand the wish Augusta Longbottom had to keep the matter hidden from all not in direct participation. However, as Minister for Magic, I must know the condition of the citizens I serve, especially those who have impacted society as much as they have. I have a very important job to the Wizarding World and must make sure of the wellbeing of those a part of it.

With that said, allow me to be the first Ministry Official to personally thank you for this act of service to two of our heroes. As you probably well know, Alice and Frank Longbottom were among our most beloved and respected heroes of the last war. Their tragic tale still brings tears to my eyes as I think back to that time, much like now, that was utterly shrouded in uncertainty and danger at every turn.

However, let us not dwell on the past. I am writing to you now, not only to thank you, but to offer a proposition. This I do not request lightly, as I know the pressures already upon you, but I am certain this will be worth your time and effort.

The Director of St Mungos, Grant Mann, has come to me asking if I believe you would be willing to work (amount to be discussed) at St Mungos later this summer. Now, this is a tremendous responsibility and, as such, I would like you and your guardian(s) to come sometime next week to discuss it in my office with the Director and myself. As Minister for Magic, it is my duty to ensure this is carried through to the end (especially as it was the Director who came to me asking for contact with you). I am greatly honored to be able to help in this and hope it brings health and healing to many ailing. Please contact me at your earliest convenience to schedule a time for our meeting.

Cornelius Oswald Fudge

Minister for Magic

"Well, he certainly is full of himself," Nicholas muttered after reading it as well.

Perenelle harrumphed. "I doubt he even wrote it. It's not pompous enough. My guess would be he told his special assistant, 'Madam Umbridge', what he wanted to get across and left it at that."

"You're probably right," Nicholas said with an amused smile before growing serious. "Well, I think there's a few decisions to be made. What do you think about this, Harry?"

Harry bit his lip, glancing down at Coral. "It would give me a chance to learn more about different kinds of treatment."

"I agree, but do you want to devote part of your summer to this?" Nicholas asked.

Harry nodded after a pause, thinking about the positives and negatives about adding yet another thing on his plate. Finally, he decided. "I want to help. I mean, I don't think I want to go there every day or something, but once or twice a week I think I could do."

Nicholas and Perenelle gave approving nods.

"Alright, we'll send back an owl and you and I will speak to the Minister and Mr. Mann," Nicholas said. "Which leads me to something I've been meaning to discuss with you since the start of summer. At some point the fact we adopted you will get out, even with the Adoption Board members having the secrecy oath. So I suggest we chose how, where, and when before it is taken out of our hands."

"So, when we meet with the Minister?" Harry asked.

"Yes, but no loud announcement. I will simply not hide and let things go from there," he said. "Then later, if we need to, which I imagine we will, we will give a statement."

Harry agreed. "Alright. That'll work."

OoOoO

Harry and Nicholas handed their wands for registration after receiving small, silver, name badges with the reason for their visit (Meeting with the Minister of Magic and Director of St Mungos). Going to the security desk, Harry couldn't help but rub his aching scar. It had been acting up quite a bit since that morning, more than the rest of the past week, and all he could get from it was that Voldemort was feeling extremely anxious yet eager.

He told Nicholas and Perenelle of course, but there was little more they could do about it, save to warn Dumbledore so he could try to keep an eye on things.

Refocusing, Harry took his wand back (the dirty-haired man behind the desk doing a double take as he spotted their nametags) and headed to the Minister's office with Nicholas.

Harry wasn't surprised Nicholas knew his way around the Ministry, though he was surprised by how quickly they wove through the crowd and to the elevator. Granted, perhaps that was because everyone was so concerned about getting to where they wanted to go they were also wanting to avoid being held up. Stepping out at level one, they made their way down the hall to an ornate door at the end marked with a golden plate: 'Cornelius Fudge — Minister of Magic'.

The hall was busy, but not as chaotic as the Atrium. Lining the hall on both sides were many doors, some open, others closed, though they were all labeled with elaborate title plates. They were offices of important Ministry officials, though what they actually did, Harry had no idea. Heading to the end, beside the Minister's office, they came to a door marked 'Senior Undersecretary to the Minister of Magic'.

Nicholas gave Harry a nod, prompting him to open the door and step in.

The office was cluttered with certificates and glittery trophies. There were a few guest chairs, as well as a desk, but it was more of a glorified entrance hall than anything else.

"Please sign your name in the registry," the man said behind the desk without looking up. He appeared extremely bored.

They did as he said, both of them putting down their full names before the overdressed bureaucrat looked up with tired eyes. However, upon spotting their nametags and their written names, he immediately became wide awake.

He quickly glanced at the clock in surprise, apparently not expecting to find the current time.

He gave a slight cough and stood with a giant smile. "Please, follow me, Mr. Flamel, Mr. Potter. You are right on time."

"Thank you," Nicholas said as the man opened a side door into the Minister's huge office.

"Minister, Mr. Potter and his guardian, Mr. Nicholas Flamel, are here for their meeting with you and Director Mann," he stated.

"Ah, send them in, send them in, Mr. Dram," Fudge beckoned, his eyes going a little wide at learning who Harry's guardian was.

The Undersecretary gave a nod and opened the door wide for Harry and Nicholas to pass. Once they did, he gently closed the door.

"Director Mann should be here shortly," Fudge said, standing from behind his desk and offering his hand.

Nicholas politely shook it before Harry followed suit.

The office was quite gaudy and much larger than what could be deemed necessary to entertain ten people. There were three other doors, two on the same side as the Undersecretary's door. One was to the special assistant's office, another directly to the hall, and the third was to another section of the Minister's office to the right of his desk. The walls were covered in portraits of past Ministers among a few ugly decorative mugs.

"Please, sit down. Tea?" Fudge offered.

"No thanks," Nicholas said, moving toward one of the chairs just as the Undersecretary door opened again.

"Director Mann, sir," Dram said.

Fudge motioned to send Mann in, taking a sip of tea and standing up, about to begin making introductions.

However, he didn't get that far as Dram followed Mann into the office, shutting the door behind him.

Harry's only warning was a pulse of magic from his guardian and Coral squeezing his wrist before Nicholas shoved him to the floor.

Horrible echoing laughter resounded forth before it was swallowed up by a horrific boom that was immediately followed by a loud booonnnnnng.

Magic surged, and Harry could feel it streaming throughout the floor and all around them (wards?) as pain flared in his scar.

Elation.

OoOoO

Madam Bones groaned with the alarm went off in her office.

"I swear, if that man has tripped the mass-lockdown system again . . . third time," she grumbled as she hurriedly got up and ran from her office as she was joined by a handful of aurors.

"It was activated from within his office again. Shall we treat this one as a simple exercise and begin releasing the seals from the other departments?" one asked.

"No, with our luck, as soon as we do that, it'll be genuine," she said as they made their way to Fudge's office.

Entering the hall on the first floor (after lifting the seal from the elevator), they approached the minister's door at the end of the hall, slowing as they went.

Something was wrong.

All of the office doors along the hall were shut, as they should be. And amazingly all of the ministry workers had followed lockdown procedures and had run into the offices before the doors shut and sealed themselves to protect those within. However, it didn't take a ward specialist to feel the difference in the area ahead.

There were layers and layers of wards. More than the ministry had placed. Much more. And even more, after casting a careful detection charm, Bones found several nasty curses in place with a frighteningly familiar magical signature. Voldemort's.

"Get the ward and curse breakers down here immediately and begin evacuating all of the departments. I'm going to contact Albus Dumbledore," she said as the door gave a muffled rattle, as if something had exploded inside.

OoOoO

Harry, now on his hands and knees, turned just in time to see Nicholas deflect a blinding beam of yellow light. It shot away and completely disintegrated half of the photos on the wall, causing the photographed people within to scream in terror.

Nicholas threw back a curse of his own as Mann and Dram stepped toward him. However, there was a third opponent.

The side door beside Fudge's desk slammed open, a bright flash from a curse obscuring much of the male figure standing beyond the doorway.

Harry went for his wand, but it didn't matter.

Nicholas blasted Mann off his feet, making him twirl around like a broken ballerina, but before Nicholas could turn his full attention to Dram, the white curse slammed into his back.

Time seemed to slow as Nicholas fell limply onto his side, and things only got worse.

Nicholas' wand went flying through the air and right into the hand of Dram, who was laughing hysterically.

Harry didn't wait and clamored forward, gathering his magic. His mind was set and he knew time was of the essence. But he would not be healing.

Keeping his back to those in the room, he quickly brought the tip of his wand to the center of his chest before tapping it to the center of his forehead, intent welling up within him. Seconds seemed to slow as he locked eyes with Nicholas who was staring at him in astonishment. Without a word, Harry swiftly traced the Sig rune near Nicholas' collarbone, just beneath the edge of his clothes. . . .

"Harry. . . ." Nicholas breathed.

"Ah-ah-ah. No healing."

Harry didn't need to look back to identify the speaker before he was magically pulled away from Nicholas, skidding across the floor on his knees.

"Harry Potter, how are you?" Voldemort asked, walking around the desk and toward him before lightly nudging Nicholas' shoulder with his foot to turn him over.

Coral hissed angrily and Harry glared up at Voldemort, ignoring his throbbing scar as he tightened his hold on his wand. All the while, Cornelius Fudge was silently crouched in the back corner, shaking with hands over his temples as if fighting a migraine.

"So, the Flamels? I admit, I never would have guessed," Voldemort continued as Dram waved his wand over himself.

"Ahh, much better," Dram said . . . only, it wasn't Dram. It wasn't even a man.

The richly robed official melted away to reveal Bellatrix Lestrange in silky black robes.

"A pity the curse didn't kill him. I had been looking forward to seeing its full effects," Voldemort mused absently as Nicholas slowly reopened his eyes. Voldemort grinned. "Surprised?"

Nicholas opted to remain silent.

"Well, whether you are or not, it changes nothing. Though I am a little annoyed you managed to kill Yaxley," Voldemort continued after Bellatrix had checked 'Mann'. "So I'll arrange a fitting end for you to make up for it."

Harry had yet to move, feeling Bellatrix's eyes on him and quite certain Voldemort wasn't as focused on Nicholas as it might appear. He was right, for Voldemort whipped around that instant.

"Imperio."

A feeling that can only be described as pure bliss came over Harry. Nothing mattered. Nothing was wrong. Everything . . . just was.

"Stand up and lift your wand, Harry."

The voice filtered through his mind like a calm breeze, a soft whisper promising eternal peace.

Harry stood and lifted his wand, not finding a reason not to. In fact, the thought of questioning the voice never even crossed his mind.

"Good, Harry. Now, point your wand at our guardian."

Harry did so, calmly looking down his wand at his guardian, not reacting at all to Coral's pleas of :Stop Harry, stop! Don't listen to him!:

Nicholas, immobilized by internal injuries, gazed back, tears gathering in his eyes. Not in fear or physical pain, but in grief for what he was certain Harry would experience once Voldemort had lifted the Imperius.

Several seconds ticked by, Voldemort no doubt reveling in the moment. All the while, Coral was hissing hysterically, trying in vain to snap Harry out of it.

"Now, cast the Severing Charm."

It was in this second, this fraction of time, that something within Harry shifted and froze.

The feeling of bliss wavered and in its place came a flicker of conflict.

There was something suddenly not alright, and Harry's consciousness was suddenly aware of there being something truly, unequivocally wrong.

"Come on, Harry. You know the spell. Diffindo. Slash and cast . . . ."

What?

Harry's hand quivered a bit, his mind now fighting against the foreign euphoria. Distantly, he could just make out Coral's desperate words as he began to realize what he was doing, or trying to do/not do. His eyes met Nicholas'.

His will, that had initially been squashed before it had slowly resurfaced, suddenly swelled and solidified. Full comprehension of what he had almost been made to do rammed into the forefront of his mind, and rage beyond anything he had ever experienced overtook all other emotion.

Harry twisted away from Nicholas, thrusting his wand at Voldemort who was barely two meters from him, and roared, "Diffindo!"

Unfortunately, his attack was no match for Voldemort's decades of experience.

Voldemort, no longer amused, furiously flicked his wand to block the offensive charm before bringing his wand down, magically swatting Harry down like a fly and causing his wand to fly from his hand and skid across the floor.

"He's mine!" Voldemort bellowed, halting Bellatrix from taking action. "Crucio!"

Harry instinctively flinched and curled onto his side as Voldemort's magic rolled over him.

His protection against the Cruciatus was working, but he did not want to reveal that the dark curse wasn't working on him.

To keep up appearances, Harry thrashed a bit and released a cry he hoped was convincing. Apparently it was, and Voldemort released the curse. Harry shuddered, which he didn't need to completely fake. Voldemort's magic was disgusting. Coral gave him a comforting squeeze.

"That was only a few seconds, Harry. Shall we try five, or ten?" he questioned.

Harry shifted forward into a limp crawling position, inching his way closer to Nicholas, who was just a meter from him.

"Or perhaps you would prefer to see what someone looks like while under the Cruciatus?" he asked silkily, turning his wand toward Nicholas. "And, as you have seen the long term effects on the Longbottoms . . . how about a 'Crucio Maxima'? I understand dear old Frank Longbottom will never fully recover, despite your . . . healing magic."

Nicholas raised his face defiantly, knowing anything he might say would not help them.

Harry's heart was in his throat, suddenly wishing he had devoted time to placing the invaluable protection on more than just himself, his friends and Coral. Why had he thought he could wait to place it on the two people who were now his family — his parents? And what would happen to Nicholas when he was already hurt?

Harry's expression told Voldemort all he wanted to know.

"Let's start out easy. Crucio!"

Harry lurched forward, trying to take the curse instead, but a painful grip on his shoulder yanked him back.

"Oh, no, itty-bitty boy," Bellatrix purred into his ear as he watched the suffering of Nicholas in horror.

"No! Stop!" Harry shouted, struggling. "Stop it!"

Voldemort held the curse for a few more seconds before letting it lift. Nicholas collapsed, wheezing.

"A very powerful spell, no? Quite captivating. Crucio!"

Harry was too furious to cry.

After what felt like an eternity, it stopped. Voldemort grinned and Bellatrix laughed.

Heaving in deep breaths now, his forehead drenched in sweat, Harry's muscles trembled in absolute fury as Coral hissed profanities that only seemed to entertain Voldemort. Harry closed his eyes, unable to look at what was before him anymore.

"Well, I think that's enough of the simple pain. As much as I enjoy this, we have things to do in the next room, Harry. Crucio Ma—"

Something snapped within Harry as Bellatrix released a high pitched shriek and let go of Harry's shoulder — thanks to Coral who had latched onto the side of her palm. With a burst of whirling magic, Harry dived forward, right between Voldemort and Flamel.

"—xima!"

Harry landed at the feet of his guardian as a horrible tearing sensation rocked his very core. It felt as if one of his legs were being ripped off, but it was deeper than that. An unrelenting pull that would not be denied overtook all other sensation and far exceeded every pain Harry had ever experienced. He could not think, say, or scream anything, not even the wish to let it end.

To Harry it felt as if it went on forever, but in reality Voldemort cut off the spell soon after the words had left his lips.

"Harry!" Nicholas shouted, attempting but failing to sit up.

"Idiot boy!" Voldemort snarled as Bellatrix continued shrieking behind him, though she had finally shaken Coral off.

Coral was now on the floor, beneath the chair at the other end of the room, watching.

Voldemort was livid as he stared down at Harry who was taking short, shuddering breaths with his eyes barely open.

"Enough," Voldemort hissed, pointing his wand at Nicholas. "Avada Kedavra!"

Harry could only watch as the green curse sailed over him, but, strangely, he was not concerned at all.

The air seemed to solidify around them as something massive rose up like an ocean wave and met the killing curse. And continued forward relentlessly.

In a horrifying and awesome flood of power, the entire room shook as Voldemort's body was bashed back. His scream was cut short when what was left of his body slammed into the wall. His broken wand clattered to the floor.

"My Lord!" Bellatrix cried, still in pain herself as she hurried to help him.

However, she didn't make it that far as her legs gave out from under her. She face planted, unmistakably breaking her nose on the granite floor as she landed. Dead. The bite mark from Coral now bright red.

Crumpled against the wall, Voldemort suddenly released several painful hacking coughs that were followed by gurgles. His skin quickly began to take on a sickly hue and the flesh on his face seemed to sink into his skull, as if he was starving.

Everything he had gained from Vincent Crabbe had been undone.

"Noo . . ." Voldemort moaned with a dry, choking breath. "I . . . will not die!"

In a last, defiant move, Voldemort sent himself toward Harry, his failing magic no doubt aiding in his low, bizarre flight.

However, he was immediately intercepted.

Nicholas, as enraged as any guardian could ever be, leapt and caught Voldemort around the waist, causing them to tumble in a heap of struggling limbs.

"AHHHHH!"

The Dark Lord, lover of torture and murder, screamed hysterically as Nicholas grabbed him with his bare hands. The smell of burning flesh quickly saturated the room, but Nicholas was not bothered in the least as he slammed his fist into the side of Voldemort's shriveling face, leaving behind severe knuckle shaped burns.

Throwing out his hand, Nicholas summoned his wand with a burst of wandless magic and thrust himself back and onto his feet in a surprisingly smooth motion, curse on his lips.

But he didn't cast as he felt Harry step up to his side, Voldemort now struggling desperately for air.

"No . . ." Voldemort weakly hissed. "I will not. I . . . refuse. . . ."

Still aiming his wand, Nicholas placed his free hand on Harry's shoulder as they stared down at the dying Dark Lord. The surreal moment stretched on, Voldemort's eyes growing more and more frantic as the end grew closer.

"I-I am L-Lord Vol . . . Vol . . ." His voice failed him and his chest shuddered . . . and, finally, stilled.

Harry swallowed before glancing up at Nicholas.

"It's over, Harry. It's over."


Final part is under construction.

A/N: Yes, the story is coming to an end. I know I probably could have stretched it out, but with how busy and crazy life is becoming, I figured it would be best to not risk making you all wait for months and months, if not a year+, or worse, never finishing it.

Side-note: Concerning my short story, Abraham, that's in the Kindle Store on Amazon, I've been asked how long it is and figured others might be wondering too. It's just under 9000 words, which is why the price is what it is :). If anyone has any other questions, feel free to ask ^^.