A/N: The final chapter that's in the actual book! I feel like this chapter ended a bit abruptly but I wasn't sure how else to end it… There will be another one, possibly more; I'll just see where it takes me. Huge thanks again to everyone who reviewed, subscribed and favourited! Please continue to R&R! L x
Minerva watched as Harry and Voldemort began to circle each other. She could feel goosebumps rising and, given the way the people around her were rubbing at their arms and shuddering, she wasn't the only one. The amount of magic in the atmosphere had increased tenfold as the darkest wizard of all time and The Boy Who Lived prepared for what everyone instinctively knew would be their final showdown. This would determine who won the war.
"I don't want anyone else to try to help. It's got to be like this. It's got to be me." Harry spoke clearly, his eyes fixed on Voldemort.
Minerva glanced around the Hall; nobody looked surprised, although a few looked worried – she noticed Molly Weasley relaxing her grip on her wand slightly, looking tense.
"Potter doesn't mean that," Voldemort was spitting, "that isn't how he works, is it? Who are you going to use as a shield today, Potter?"
Minerva felt a rush of pride for Harry as he looked impassively at Voldemort and replied, "Nobody." However, his next words doused all her other emotions with a mixture of horror, revulsion and dawning comprehension.
"There are no more Horcruxes. It's just you and me. Neither can live while the other survives, and one of us is about to leave for good…"
So Voldemort had made Horcruxes. It seemed so obvious to Minerva now… She knew what they were, although the idea of them had always repulsed her. That was why Dumbledore had been leaving the school to go; why Harry and his friends had left after his death. And by the sounds of it, they'd destroyed them all…
"One of us? You think it will be you, do you, the boy who has survived by accident, and because Dumbledore was pulling the strings?"
Voldemort was sneering at Harry, whose calmness was beginning to slip; Minerva could see his eyes flashing even from her position next to the wall. She shivered slightly.
"Accident was it, when my mother died to save me? Accident, when I decided to fight in that graveyard? Accident, that I didn't defend myself tonight, and still survived, and returned to fight again?"
"Accidents! Accident and chance and the fact that you crouched and snivelled behind the skirts of greater men and women, and permitted me to kill them for you!"
Harry was gripping his wand tighter and somehow seemed to be taller… His eyes were boring into Voldemort's, and they showed no fear, only hatred, anger and determination. He was reminding Minerva forcefully of Dumbledore, giving off that sense of power that her best friend used to when people crossed the line, and she thought that Voldemort looked slightly unnerved by it. Suddenly, she realised she wasn't as scared any more. It seemed so strange to her; she could still remember Harry the day he arrived at Hogwarts, small and shy and with so much still to learn. Now here he stood, facing He Who Must Not Be Named and, it seemed, in control. She couldn't help but feel protected; she knew everyone around her felt the same way. It was the way they used to feel when Dumbledore was around.
"You won't be killing anyone else tonight," Harry was saying, "you won't be able to kill any of them, ever again. Don't you get it? I was ready to die to stop you hurting these people -"
"But you did not!"
"- I meant to, and that's what did it. I've done what my mother did. They're protected from you. Haven't you noticed how none of the spells you put on them are binding? You can't torture them. You can't touch them. You don't learn from your mistakes, Riddle, do you?"
If the atmosphere hadn't been so tense, if she hadn't been concentrating wholly on listening to what was being said, Minerva would have gasped with surprise at Harry addressing Voldemort as 'Riddle'. As it was, she barely had time to appreciate, with a rush of affection for him, that Harry had tried to sacrifice himself to save them all.
"You dare –", Voldemort spat.
"Yes, I dare." Dimly Minerva thought that of course he dared; he was in Gryffindor, after all. "I know things you don't know, Tom Riddle. I know lots of important things that you don't. Want to hear some, before you make another big mistake?"
Minerva stared, transfixed, at the pair circling each other in the centre of the Hall. She and everyone around her were hanging on their every word.
"Is it love again? Dumbledore's favourite solution, love, which he claimed conquered death, though love did not stop him falling from the Tower and breaking like an old waxwork? Love, which did not prevent me stamping out your Mudblood mother like a cockroach, Potter – and nobody seems to love you enough to run forwards this time, and take my curse. So what will stop you dying now when I strike?"
Unwanted tears had gathered in Minerva's eyes at these words; Dumbledore had been her best friend and Lily one of her favourite students. It hurt her, and made her angry, to hear Voldemort talk about their deaths in such an offhand, jeering way. She blinked rapidly.
"Just one thing," Harry replied. He had not even flinched at the mentions of Dumbledore and his mother; Minerva couldn't help but admire the way that he remained so supremely calm when even she was having trouble disguising her emotions.
"If it is not love that will save you this time, you must believe that you have magic that I do not, or else a weapon more powerful than mine?"
"I believe both."
Voldemort was laughing; Minerva could feel the hairs rising on the back of her neck at the sound. He sounded mad. Was it too much to hope that he was perhaps getting desperate?
"You think you know more magic than I do? Than I, Lord Voldemort, who has performed magic that Dumbledore himself never dreamed of?"
"Oh, he dreamed of it. But knew more than you, knew enough not to do what you've done."
"You mean he was weak! Too weak to dare, too weak to take what might have been his, what will be mine!"
"No, he was cleverer than you. A better wizard, a better man."
Minerva's spirits couldn't help but lift a little upon hearing Harry defending Dumbledore, punctuated by a hint of curiosity – she was one of very, very few people who knew the truth about Dumbledore's past; he had told her many years ago shortly after she started teaching, in her own classroom. But how had Harry found out?
"I brought about the death of Albus Dumbledore!"
"You thought you did. But you were wrong."
There was a sharp intake of breath from the whole crowd, Minerva included. She didn't take her eyes off Harry and Voldemort though; didn't pause in her concentration on their conversation to think about it. She needed to hear this.
"Dumbledore is dead! His body decays in the marble tomb in the grounds of this castle, I have seen it, Potter and he will not return!"
Half-nauseated, half-furious at the fact that Voldemort had clearly broken into Dumbledore's tomb, Minerva glanced anxiously at Harry for his reaction to this. She was surprised to see that he didn't seem fazed.
"Yes, Dumbledore's dead, but you didn't have him killed. He chose his own manner of dying, chose it months before he died, arranged the whole thing with the man you thought was your servant."
Minerva did not even hear Voldemort's reply to this; she was too shocked. Dumbledore had known he was going to die… Why hadn't he told her? She was supposed to be his closest friend, other than Elphias Doge. Had he known? Surely he would have told the Order? She felt slightly hurt that Dumbledore had kept this secret from her; allowed it to come as a shock... With an enormous effort, she dragged herself back to the present, desperate to hear more.
"Severus Snape wasn't yours," Harry was saying, "Snape was Dumbledore's. Dumbledore's from the moment you started hunting down my mother. And you never realised it, because of the thing you can't understand. You never saw Snape cast a Patronus, did you, Riddle? Snape's Patronus was a doe. The same as my mother's because he loved her for nearly all of his life, from the time when they were children. You should have realised. He asked you to spare her life, didn't he?"
Minerva's mind was reeling. Dumbledore had chosen how to die… Snape had been in love with Lily… Their Patronus' had been the same… So that was why Dumbledore had trusted him, because love had made him change sides, and Dumbledore trusted love more than anything. Minerva felt a horrible surge of guilt as she recalled her duel with him. And now he was dead…
"He desired her, that was all. But when she had gone, he agreed that there were other women, and of purer blood, worthier of him -"
"Of course he told you that," there was a hint of impatience in Harry's voice now, "but he was Dumbledore's spy from the moment you threatened her, and he's been working against you ever since! Dumbledore was already dying when Snape finished him!"
Minerva couldn't take many more surprises. She recalled vaguely how she had arrived in Dumbledore's office two summers ago when she was back from visiting her brothers to find him with a blackened, dead-looking hand. She remembered how vague he had been when she had asked him about it… "I'll be fine, Minerva," he had said airily, before changing the subject. But obviously this was why he'd been dying. He'd lied to her… She knew he'd had his reasons, but it would take her a while to accept it.
"It matters not! It matters not whether Snape was mine or Dumbledore's, or what petty obstacles they tried to put in my path! I crushed them as I crushed your mother, Snape's supposed great love! Oh, but it all makes sense, Potter, and in ways that you do not understand!"
Minerva felt a grim pleasure at the fact that Voldemort seemed to be becoming increasingly desperate… Harry was definitely unnerving him.
"Dumbledore was trying to keep the Elder Wand from me! He intended that Snape should be the true master of the wand! But I got ahead of you, little boy – I reached the wand before you could get your hands on it, I understood the truth before you caught up. I killed Severus Snape three hours ago, and the Elder Wand, the Deathstick, the Wand of Destiny is truly mine! Dumbledore's last plan went wrong, Harry Potter!"
Everyone's heads snapped back to Harry. Minerva was amazed to see that he still looked unconcerned.
"Yeah it did. You're right. But before you try to kill me, I'd advise you to think about what you've done… Think, and try for some remorse, Riddle…"
"What is this?" Minerva barely registered Voldemort's surprise, she was fixated on Harry's words, because she couldn't quite believe what she was hearing… Although, she mused, if she could believe this of anyone, it would be Harry…
"It's your one last chance. It's all you've got left… I've seen what you'll become otherwise… Be a man… Try… Try for some remorse…"
Minerva had never been so proud of Harry. She didn't think he realised quite how good, how noble, he really was. Nobody else in this room would have offered Voldemort a second chance like this – and nobody else's lives had been as deeply affected as Harry's by him.
"You dare -?"
"Yes, I dare, because Dumbledore's last plan hasn't backfired on me at all. It's backfired on you, Riddle."
More revelations… Minerva marvelled at how much Harry knew; how he could look Voldemort in the eye and explain it to him so calmly.
"That wand isn't working properly for you, because you murdered the wrong person. Severus Snape was never the true master of the Elder Wand. He never defeated Dumbledore."
"He killed -"
"Aren't you listening? Snape never beat Dumbledore! Dumbledore's death was planned between them! Dumbledore intended to die undefeated, the wand's last true master! If all had gone as planned, the wand's power would have died with him, because it had never been won from him!"
"But then, Potter, Dumbledore as good as gave me the wand! I stole the wand from its last master's tomb! I removed it against its last master's wishes! Its power is mine!"
Minerva couldn't believe how idiotic Voldemort was being; she understood what Harry was saying – but she was much older and wiser than Harry. She couldn't help but be impressed that Harry understood it.
"You still don't get it, Riddle, do you? Possessing the wand isn't enough! Holding it, using it, doesn't make it really yours. Didn't you listen to Ollivander? The wand chooses the wizard… the Elder Wand recognised a new master before Dumbledore died, someone who never even laid a hand on it. The new master removed the wand from Dumbledore against his will, never realising exactly what he had done, or that the world's most dangerous wand had given him its allegiance… The true master of the Elder Wand was Draco Malfoy."
Minerva's hand flew to her mouth to suppress a gasp. She now remembered Harry telling her and a few others in the hospital wing a year ago, how Malfoy had Disarmed Dumbledore. It hadn't occurred to her before now just how important a fact that was. To her amazement, she felt a twinge of regret that Snape had been killed unnecessarily.
"But what does it matter?" Voldemort's voice was soft and dangerous again; Minerva eyed him warily as he spoke. "Even if you are right, Potter, it makes no difference to you and me. You no longer have the phoenix wand: we duel on skill alone… and after I have killed you, I can attend to Draco Malfoy…"
"But you're too late. You've missed your chance. I got there first. I overpowered Draco weeks ago. I took this wand from him."
Minerva, along with everyone else, looked at the wand. She realised, now, that she didn't recognise it, and she wondered dimly how Harry had lost his wand, but she was too busy listening to dwell on it.
"So it all comes down to this, doesn't it?" Minerva could see people straining to hear him, and felt immensely grateful for her own impeccable hearing. "Does the wand in your hand know its last master was Disarmed? Because if it does… I am the true master of the Elder Wand."
It all happened very suddenly. Minerva's hand went to her heart; next to her, Filius gasped as Harry and Voldemort both sprung into action at once, their wands flying up to point at each other's faces:
Everyone jumped at the bang, and Minerva watched, holding her breath, as Voldemort's wand soared towards Harry… He caught it…. She looked back to Voldemort, hardly daring to believe her eyes as he fell. Everyone remained silent for a moment. Voldemort didn't get up.
And suddenly everyone was shouting; people were jumping up and down, punching the air, hugging each other. Molly Weasley and Poppy Pomfrey were both sobbing uncontrollably. Pomona Sprout appeared and hugged Minerva, who laughed as her friend shouted that it was over in her ear and cried into her shoulder.
People were beginning to converge on Harry; not wanting to be left out of the celebrations, Minerva and Pomona hurried over as well and joined the people who were already screaming words they couldn't hear with joy, crying and laughing at the same time, hugging each other and trying to hug Harry.
Minerva too reached towards him, wanting to touch him – she still couldn't quite believe he was alive, that he'd won. There were people all around trying to do the same and she was pleased but surprised when he beamed at her and gave her a brief hug, which she, uncharacteristically, returned enthusiastically. When Harry turned to wring Filius' hand, she took the opportunity to wipe away a tear.
However, Minerva now needed to think about returning Hogwarts to some sort of order. The big clean up would, of course, happen after most people had returned home, but for now she thought everyone needed some food and a sit down.
With difficulty, Minerva pushed her way back through the crowd. Having finally emerged, she straightened her glasses and made a beeline for the entrance to the kitchens, around which the house elves were standing, watching the celebrations, unsure whether they should start clearing up. They bowed as one as she approached.
"I think we could all do with some breakfast!" she said brightly, her eyes wandering over the house elves, some of whom bore cuts and bruises. "Those of you who are injured must see Madam Pomfrey when she is available… I order you only to help prepare breakfast if you are fit enough," she added sternly, ignoring the surprised looks and the grateful thank yous, "and after breakfast you must all rest. Tidying up the castle can wait until it is less crowded. You played an important part in the final battle… Thank you."
They bowed even lower, then turned towards the kitchens. Minerva headed into the Great Hall, which was beginning to fill up with people. With a wave of her wand, she returned the house tables to their positions and moved up to the staff table, sinking wearily into the seat she ought to have occupied all year.
She looked around the hall, and the atmosphere was so different to the last time she had been in here. People were chattering and laughing, the sun was shining in through the windows and, as she watched, a magnificent array of breakfast dishes appeared on the tables. Although tired, Minerva could not help but feel momentarily content. Grief would come, as would pain from her injuries and exhaustion from the nights events, and there was much hard work to be done, restoring the castle to its usual state. But for now, Voldemort was dead, and this breakfast time of celebration was a respite from the worry and sorrow. She only wished that those brave Hogwartians who had died fighting and had never seen Voldemort defeated could be here to share it.