It was something in the way that he moved, Harry found himself thinking, half delirious from adrenaline and blood loss. His wand was soaked in sweat; his fingers had to scrabble to keep a hold of it. He was too afraid to let go and stop casting shield-after-curse-after-shield for the few seconds it would take to wipe it dry on his shirt. He'd been casting spells faster than he could think of them, lips forming the vaguely Latin sounding words strictly on autopilot, and the stress of it showed.
His fear burnt white hot in his blood, howling in almost perfect unison with the beating of his heart. Life and death had never seemed more accurate a description. A ten page essay due the next morning that hadn't yet been started had nothing on this.
He resisted the urge to cry out - that would interrupt his next shield spell, and fuckmerlin'ssaggyass, he couldn't have that - as the edge of a fairly nasty pain spell clipped his left shoulder. The spell was a disturbingly cheerful shade of yellow, and it was all Harry could do to keep from cursing his way hell, figuratively and literally.
But there! He could see him now, finally, thank whatever fucking god was listening. He'd fought through the nameless horde of extras, struck down the last of his inner circle, cursed the final wizards to stand between him, Harry Potter, The-Boy-Who-Lived, and-
The corner of Lord Voldemort's lipless mouth turned up the slightest smidgen. "Hello, Harry." The words, breathless and airy, sound more like the snake language should than parseltongue actually did. "Fancy meeting you here."
Harry's grip on his wand was so tight he was half afraid he would snap it. "Voldemort," Harry started to say, and then he couldn't finish. Just because that bastard, the most powerful wizard since generations past, didn't need his voice to cast any of the spells from his arcane repertoire didn't mean Harry could afford to do the same.
"Stop at once." Voldemort didn't raise his voice; instead, he lowered it. It came out a strange sort of hiss, the tone so cold even Harry, the one person the megalomaniac's words were not directed at, felt the hair on the back of his neck freeze up as he shivered. "The boy is mine."
Harry kind of wanted to take offense to that - he was seventeen, a legal adult in the wizarding world, and he hadn't been a kid since he had to fight his way through that fucking tournament and win just to see Cedric die. Hell, Voldemort himself had murdered a handful of people by the time he was seventeen. He wasn't exactly what people would call a late bloomer in that respect, and Harry was pretty sure the budding dark wizard hadn't let anyone get away with calling him boy.
But then again, Harry had always been shit at hiding his feelings. From what Harry remembered from his lessons with Dumbledore, Voldemort, the fucking born psychopath, had had bullshitting down to a fine art by the tender age of eleven. He supposed the self styled lord couldn't have cared less about what people called him as long as he still what he wanted.
"Harry Potter..." The aforementioned teen grimaced, resisting the urge to fidget as Voldemort took a few measured steps toward him. "What do you say, Harry? Shall we bow?"
This was insane. Fucking prophecy or not, Harry had just turned seventeen last July. Even if he wasn't a kid anymore, he sure as hell wasn't adult enough to face down the dark lord himself and win.
But even as his thoughts mutinied against him, he inclined his head the slighted amount, eyes never leaving the amused serpentine face ahead of his. So what if the power of love was the only thing he had on his side? He was at least going to go down fighting.
"Ah... You've grown some manners, Harry." The mad man who used to be known as Tom spoke. "What a pleasant surprise."
Shut up, Harry thought, his anger temporarily blinding him. This was the beast that had killed Cedric, and his parents, and even fucking Snape, although Harry was still kind of unsure if that really counted against him. Spy or not, the man was a damn bastard.
"I'm sorry," Voldemort sounded amused again, his humor a dry chuckle in his whispering voice. "I would have killed him sooner if I had known that it would have pleased you."
"Just shut up already!" Harry finally snapped, his eyes flashing with anger. "We're supposed to be having a fight to the death, not some fucking tea for two conversation!"
The dark lord merely chuckled. "Ah, Harry... So eager to die." The humor evaporated from the clearing before Harry hardly noticed it. One moment, he was able to stand there and bristle over minor details like Snape, and then the next-
Harry hissed, knees shaking. His scar felt like it had just fucking ripped his forehead open, and the promise of death hung so heavily in the air it was hard to breathe. "As long as I take your motherfucking self with me," he managed to grunt out as he struggled to keep standing straight. "I don't mind having a chat with death."
Harry could see the few death eaters not immediately occupied with cursing their enemies shift uneasily, apparently upset that Voldemort hadn't leapt straight to the killing and that they had been forbidden to interfere. The dark lord paid them no attention, both scarlet eyes focused unblinkingly at his teenage opponent. "Harry... Harry, Harry, Harry..." His name slid off the megalomaniac's nonexistent lips, mocking in it's sincerity of emotion. "I'm afraid, my dear child, that any appointment you find with death today will be a very singular one."
A wry smile appeared on the dark lord's face. For all that he had lost Tom Riddle's classical beauty, it seemed he still possessed the same acute power of manipulation over his features. Harry couldn't see any trace of the cruel, unsympathetic, death fearing madman he knew lay beneath it. "But I can see that patience is still a virtue you have yet to possess." The dark lord flicked his wrist, the elder wand sliding to his fingers with a few silvery sparks.
Harry adjusted his grip on his own wand as he tilted his head up to glare at the still softly smiling Voldemort. "Such a pity," the not-quite-a-man hummed, casting some sort of additional ward to block out the other fights from their view. "Like that one boy... What was his name again?"
Harry desperately tried to clear his mind while, at the same time, he worked to recall any spells he had learned that might be of use. Somehow he didn't think rictusempra was going to cut it. "Can't we just get to the fighting already?" Fuck, did he just whine?
"Oh, yes." Voldemort's eyes half closed as he hissed out his final word. "Cedric. That was his name, was it not?"
"Don't talk about Cedric." Harry gritted his teeth as the madman merely laughed. "I mean it. Just shut up!" Magic flared around him as the teen tried to keep himself from screaming.
Voldemort was still amused. "Why, Harry dear!" The dark lord said with false enthusiasm. "You wouldn't be thinking of bringing out the cruciatus again, now, would you?" Breathing harshly though his nose, Harry shook his head jerkily. He had to remain calm. "What would your dear godfather think of that? Or that handsome young lad, Cedric, was it?"
Voldmort turned his back to Harry as he paced away. "If I do remember correctly," the snakefaced bastard remarked, "your parents stopped by for a visit on our first real little chat... If not for Black, you would at least stay Dumbledore's," here was where his voice first cracked, his almost impeccable facade not able to cover the fury of his hate for the dead man, "golden boy for your parents, wouldn't you?"
Just stay calm, Harry thought to himself. Just stay quiet and don't listen and don't watch. He was about to attempt to kill the insane man in front of him, and he definitely didn't need any distractions, seeing as he was already completely outclassed
"I seem to remember that your mother was quite fond of you - she would have given the world for your safety." Ever the actor, almost genuine looking surprise played across Voldemort's face. "Why, I suppose that's why she did!"
"Crucio!" Harry growled out the curse, hatred flowing through him and then out of his wand as he thirsted for Voldemort to kneel to him, to be writhing on the floor as he moaned in agony...
"Really, Harry." Voldemort did the equivalent of raising an eyebrow. "While I commend you on your initiative, I do wish you could do something about your diction." When Harry, still high off the dark magic of the Unforgivable, made no response, the older wizard sighed.
Then Harry, scrambling backwards out of the way of a particularly nasty magenta colored spell, was much too busy to try to do anything about anything.
"Er," Ron started, looking from Hermione to the gathered crowd of ragged witches and wizards and then to the shining, opaque ward presumed to be shielding Harry and Voldemort. "How do we tell if we've won yet or not?"
Hermione, busying trying to yank the last bits of twigs and shattered pieces of rock out of her hair, cast a doubting look at the ward. "Well... We've beaten all of the death eaters?" It hadn't even been that hard, anyway, with Voldemort's apparent last orders being to "stop at once". She didn't know if obedience was hardwired into the dark mark or if the death eaters were just too afraid of angering Voldemort to disobey him, but the fight had gotten dramatically easier after that.
The brunette glanced back at the last of Voldemort's followers on the Hogwarts' lawn. They were being escorted down to a nice, cushy hole in Azkaban. Or the Ministry, maybe. Wherever there was room for a good fifty prisoners, give or take some.
"But what about Voldemort?" Ron determinedly ignored the collective shudder at the name. "Him being trapped under that... thingy was the only reason we beat all of them." The gathered crowd began to look worried.
"I see what you mean." Hermione sighed. "If we consider this," she waved her hands around until she came up with the proper words, "battle as being in terms of quantity, not quality, than we've definitely won, seeing as we still have an army and they're down to one man. But in terms of quality?" The gathered crowd, which had started to look a bit more cheerful, grew anxious at the ominous tone to her last words.
She snorted. "Voldemort is stronger than all of the death eaters we've beaten combined. Without him neutralized - and permanently, considering the fact that he could probably escape out of any prison we put him in with very little problem - there's no way that we could possibly consider this a victory. If he comes out of there alive, he'd kill us all in seconds." The gathered crowd began to look panicked.
"So... What should we do?" Ron asked her. The gathered crowd, still panicked, looked at her for the answer. "Can we help Harry? Somehow? Someway? At all..." The redhead trailed off. While he was pretty good at planning, he had absolutely no idea what that ward was. It helped to know what you were up against before you tried to get around it.
"Help Harry?" Hermione, still stressed and tired from the battle, snapped at him. "Oh yes, of course we can!" She said sarcastically. Ron sighed. He loved her, he really did - or at least, as much as any seventeen year old boy could - but she didn't react well to unsolvable situations in the best of times. This was certainly not the best of times. "Why don't we all just throw the most powerful spells we all know at the 'thingy'," she continued to mock him, "and hope for the best?"
"I'm okay with that." Pursuing her lips, Hermione turned to face Ron to tell him just what she thought about him taking this situation so lightly-
Only to find it wasn't him that had said it.
Casting spells with all the fervor the phrase 'if he comes out of there alive, he'd kill us all in seconds' can muster, the gathered crowd channeled their panic into a somewhat less helpful activity. Hermione could only stand, her mouth hung open in surprise, before a slight cough from Ron brought her back to life.
"You idiots!" She screeched at them, snatching a wand out of a nearby student's (Dennis Creevey's?) hand. "What are you doing? I don't care what you're doing! Just stop it! Stop it immediately!" The gathered crowd, now resembling a mob more than anything, paid her absolutely no attention whatsoever.
"Ron! Help me!" The aforementioned teen blinked, trying to distract himself from the pretty light show. Oh, shit. He hoped that was the blood loss talking.
"Sorry, Hermione. I was kind of distracted by all the spells," Ron pointed at a particularly vivid fuchsia one, hoping she wouldn't ask him to try to walk in a straight line. "Look at that! What does Dean think using his water-to-wine spell is going to do?"
Hermione nearly tore her hair out. "That's the point, Ron! He doesn't! Nobody does! And everyone needs to stop casting these ridiculous spells," she started shouting at the still busy mob, "Immediately! Before you people cause something terrible to hap-"
There was a terribly ghastly silence. There was a terribly noise. There was a terribly ghastly silence.
The mob, from where they currently lay splayed out on the ground, guilty lowered their wands.
"Uh... Hermione?" Ron rolled over to look at his shell-shocked friend. "Was it just me, or did that ward thingy that Harry and Voldemort were under just explode into some bright light and disappear?"
Hermione, looking with horrified eyes at the crater that used to contain her friend, whimpered. Her ear drums were completely shot. "No, Ron." She said with a weak voice as she stumbled up to her feet. "It wasn't just you."
Ron grabbed at her arm to pull himself up. "So..." He said, looking from her to the haphazardly displaced mob to the smoking crater where his best friend and the leader of the Death Eaters used to be. "Since Dumbledore's dead... Who exactly are we supposed to go to for help now?"