One Man Army
Chapter 3: Now We Are Free
Adrenaline was flowing in Harry's veins as he entered the assembly hall through the smoking remains of the door. Focus and state of mind honed to a sharpest point by countless hours of practice and battles allowed Harry a split second to contemplate how this felt eerily like flying after the snitch on the Hogwarts Quidditch pitch. He further remembered that he hadn't played Quidditch since his sixth year in school. Harry woke from his introspection as his second blasting curse connected with the side of the head of an unprepared Death Eater who had just had time to react to the explosion of the door with loud boom and sickening sight of red mist flying around. He saw shrapnel and body parts flying around along with unmistakable bright orange of blasting curses. Harry went with the practised battle routine of firing and dodging, showing smaller side profile towards the enemy while keeping constantly moving for not to give the opponents easy stationary target. It didn't look dignified or cool, but it worked, and Harry had stayed alive through many battles using this same pattern.
As the battle raged around him, Harry had time to take a look at his surroundings. Two dozen Harry Potters covered with various amounts of blood and grime were moving all along the back of the large assembly room, firing blasting and piercing curses at the black robed enemy in front of them. Few of the cleaner Harry's had toppled the large buffet tables down to create cower from the first spells the Death Eaters had managed to get off. Their aim was wildly inaccurate, as the Death Eaters were packed so tightly together they were constantly bumping into each other trying to dodge incoming fire or climbing up under their dead comrades that had fallen from the opening salvo of blasting hexes. More and more Death Eaters were falling all the time, victims of piercing curses from the army of Potters or from dark magic thrown in the mix by Voldemort himself and his inner circle with little regard if their spells would hit their own people or one of the Harry's.
It was bloody. It was gory. It was ugly. But then, war is.
After only a few minutes of bloody mayhem the Dark Army was utterly decimated, and only Voldemort with a few of his most loyal and skilful followers were standing, surrounded by the Potters and a room full of mostly dead Death Eaters. One of the Potters had been hit by a dark cutting curse, and was being patched up by two others at the far corner of the room, covered by fourth and fifth. A sixth one was quietly tending to a dislocated shoulder with the help of seventh, and three were quickly checking that none of the fallen Death Eaters were playing possum to get in cheap shots at the backs of the Potters and stunning and stabilising with stasis charms those few that were whimpering or screaming wounded. The rest were eyeing the remaining enemies, with only minor cuts and bruises from narrowly dodged curses and shrapnel from walls and furniture, that were blown to smithereens in the short but intense battle.
"Damn you Potter and all your friends!" yelled Voldemort, his gloving, blood red eyes moving from one Harry to next. "Polyjuice won't help you fulfil the prophecy, and you know that! And you are no match to me in a fight!"
Harry was looking around, waiting for one of the other Harrys to take initiative. They had seen this same scene before, after all. Most of them were looking expectingly at the one standing directly in front of Voldemort, who in turn was looking around a bit confused.
"Oh, right" He said finally. "It's my turn.
"You see, old Tom, this isn't polyjuice. This is the genuine article. This is the 'Power He Knows Not'. Now me, myself and I", he said, gesturing at the other Potters around, "are going to kill you, and there's nothing you can do about it"
"You seem terribly confident, boy! I am Lord Voldemort. No one can beat me!" the Dark Lord answered, although Harry could see fear slowly creeping in his eyes.
"Well, I have my reasons to be confident. Let's just say I've seen this coming. On my mark guys!"
And as one, without any visible mark, all of the Potters raised their wands and launched their most powerful piercing curses at Lord Voldemort and his remaining supporters. Three of them managed to get shields up in time, but as there were curses coming from every direction, they did no good for them. With five dull thuds as their bodies hit the ground, the Dark Lord and his Dark Army was no more.
Harry was a bit surprised at the blasé attitude the other Harrys were having at the defeat of the most powerful dark lord in centuries, until he realized that it was the twentieth time some of them had seen the scene, and that he himself had to fight through the bloody and grim battle over and over again, and suddenly all his will to celebrate evaporated and his face fell to a similar weary and empty look he was seeing on the other Harrys. He suddenly realized the true scope of his plan; war was never pretty, but this was ugly to the extreme. Fighting the same battle with over two hundred enemy casualties, two dozen times in a row. Actually killing most of those two hundred men, women, and lets face it, children by yourself. Knowing in advance where they were going to be, how they were going to die. Remembering how the piercing curse flew through the eye of the betrayer Pettigrew blowing the back of his head out showering Bellatrix with bits of brain, and knowing that maybe next time it would be his piercing curse that would end the rat's life. Witnessing over five thousand deaths during one gory day, even if they were the same deaths over and over again.
He knew he wouldn't be the same man after this. He could see that the other Harrys weren't the same man any more.
He felt a hand on his shoulder. "I know how you feel", said the Harry behind him. "But you must also understand that you don't need to be the same man any more after this. The war is over, you don't need to raise your wand against anyone else after you finish fighting this one last battle".
The other Harry left Harry standing by himself, took the device out of his shirt for a look as he was walking towards the centre of the room.
"Okay, guys", he shouted clapping his hands to get attention. "We still have a few minutes to do a final sweep before we need to get into position for the next round. Check that those are really dead and collect their wands to the back of the room. Clean yourselves a bit so that the new guy won't freeze when he sees you all bloody and dirty", He said.
"As this was my final round, I'm not coming with you, but I'll stay behind to clean this mess up. It's been an honour to fight with you, gentlemen. And don't fret, there's nothing any of you can do to help me from getting hit by that cutting curse. It's okay, they have plenty of quality medical supplies at the storage room back there, and God knows you've been hurt often enough to know what to do with them". He took one more look at the device. "Two minutes! Let's move!"
Harry was forced to abandon his moody introspection about madness of war as he was once again swept along by it to the frantic preparation for the next battle. He quickly checked the nearest bodies, summoning their wands and hurried to the back of the room where the other Harrys were already positioning themselves along the back wall, some drinking pepper-up potions they had found from the storage cabinet, some flexing their wand arms and focusing already on the blasting curses that were going to be the opening salvo of the next round of the battle. The Harry that was giving orders was standing in the middle of the room, looking at his device.
"Good luck", he said, "and do what you must, so that no one else must do the same."
With those final words the device activated. Harry felt a familiar spinning sensation he had last felt during his third year in Hogwarts as he was forcibly sucked through the time for the first time today.
The sound of the first blasting curse that had shredded the door was still echoing in the hall and first Death Eaters were already falling down hit by the shrapnel from the door as Harry landed, ready for battle, with his two dozen comrades. He felt the magic pooling itself inside him as he raised his wand and let loose a blasting curse towards the enemy. Red mist was spraying in the air and the room was filled with the sound of explosions and screaming Death Eaters as the round two of the battle begun.
Eight hours later a tired Harry was standing in front of two dozen Potters giving his final advice for them. Most of them looked tired and defeated, as he himself had been for the last ten or so times, but he knew he had to do this. And he remembered how much these words had helped him when the reality had hit him after the first battle. He was looking at the 'youngest' Harry as he was speaking. He truly had looked miserable back then, but he could see the determination coming back to his eyes and the grip on his wand tighten as he spoke.
"Good luck", he said. "and do what you must, so that no one else must do the same."
And with that he was alone.
The silence after almost ten hours of constant battle and hasty regrouping was deafening. Somewhere in the room a quiet cracking could be heard as charred remains of some piece of furniture were slowly cooling after being burned in the heat of the battle. Blood was dripping with silent splats from the Death Eater that had died half hanging over the edge of the small podium in the front of the hall. A crow was croaking outside in the sunshine, which was filtering through the broken windows casting rays in the dust and smoke that was hanging in the air.
The smells of blood, burnt flesh and every kind of bodily fluid imaginable were nauseating as Harry walked towards the pile of wands taken from the enemies, but Harry's senses had numbed to them long ago. He himself had taken the yew and phoenix feather wand from Voldemort, and was holding it in his hand. The white wand looked innocent, like any other wand made by Mr. Ollivander and sold to an eleven year old child before going to Hogwarts. Harry knew that the wand was a brother to his own, and thus it shouldn't have came as a surprise that it too felt warm and inviting in Harry's hand, but somehow he was disgusted of his reaction to the wand.
'Why oh why wouldn't Voldemort have had some kind of evil looking wand with skulls and bones decorating it' thought Harry. 'Then it would be so much easier to understand how the man himself became so evil.
'But no, he had a white wand with a phoenix feather of all things as a core'
Harry dropped the wand on top of the others, slumped on the floor, his back against a relatively intact piece of wall and broke down crying, the adrenaline finally evaporating from his blood and leaving only a wreck behind.
Harry didn't know how long he had sat there, half asleep from exhaustion, going over and over again the events of the day. The sun was already shining from a lower angle, and it's rays were hitting the grotesque sight of a Death Eater that had died on his chair, probably from one of the first piercing curses. His head had fallen backwards, and the curse had hit him from behind blowing his face off leaving only a gaping hole of blood and brains.
"Harry?", called the voice that had woken him from his thoughts again. Harry looked up at the door with puffed, red eyes. He had cried his tears out long ago, and there was nothing more left in his eyes than despair and emptiness.
"Oh, Harry! You were supposed to send a message to us, remember?", said Hermione, rushing to embrace Harry. "We were so worried! We thought the plan had failed, but then there wasn't anything from Voldemort either, and no Death Eater activity anywhere, so we came here to search for you."
Hermione pushed Harry at arms length and looked at him. Harry lowered his eyes to the floor.
"Harry? Are you all right?" asked Hermione with worry clearly in her voice. "What's the matter? Are you hurt?" she continued. "Voldemort didn't escape or do anything to you, did he?"
"No, he's dead, all right. And I'm fine", replied Harry with a raspy voice.
"Don't you 'I'm fine' me, Mr. Potter! I know you're not fine, I've seen you like that often enough to know you're not all right!" Hermione raised her voice. "Now what's the matter? Shouldn't you be happy that the war is over?"
"Hermione, look at me", Harry said quietly, raising his head to look at Hermione. "Look around you. I did this, Hermione. I killed all these people. And then I went back in time and killed them again. And again, and again, and again..." Harry's voice died out
"Oh, Harry..." was all Hermione could say, as she finally took in the scene of utter destruction and carnage around her. Some of the other people from the Order were silently walking among the bodies that littered the room, portkeying the ones in stasis out.
"It was terrible, 'Mione. There was this one Death Eater, he was sitting right there" Harry said, pointing towards a spot close to the door.
"He was younger than us, 'Mione. He was sitting right there, probably in his first meeting, when I came in and blasted them apart. He was thrown to the floor by the opening salvo, and before he died only seconds later he managed to crawl over the one that had sat next to him, one that got hit from the start, and as his final words he cried 'Mother!'. I'll never forget the look at his face, the concern for his dead mother, over and over again. And then, over and over again, the stray curse from another Death Eater, imbalanced by Death eaters dying all around him, that hit his head form behind and blew that expression apart. How could I do that, how can I live with myself knowing I was able to do that?"
Harry reached to the pile of wands next to him, and took the wand of Voldemort in his hand.
"And then there's this, Hermione", he said, showing the wand to her. "Do you know what this is? This is his wand, 'Mione, this is Voldemort's wand. Look at it, Hermione. Just look at it. It's just like mine, simple, beautiful even. Made by Ollivander, sold to an eleven year old Tom Riddle. And it bloody responds to me just like my own!", Harry cried out, sobbing.
Hermione hugged Harry silently. She had known right from the beginning that if (when, she corrected herself) the plan was successful, Harry would feel tremendous quilt over the people he would be forced to kill to get to Voldemort. But, she had to admit to herself, the scene around her and the story about the young boy and his mother were more than she had anticipated during planning. It was easy to think of the masked Death Eaters simply as an enemy that needed to be removed for the greater good. Hell, the training dummies they used had Death Eater masks. But to witness first hand that the Death Eaters had family, that they were afraid for their loved ones; that would totally destroy Harry, who had grown up dreaming of a loving mother of his own.
Hermione hold Harry tighter in her embrace. "Shh... you'll never be like him, and you know that. I know that." Hermione whispered to his ear.
"How do you know that?" asked Harry, still sobbing, but now responding to Hermiones embrace by his own needy hug.
"How do I know that? Do you think that Tom Riddle was a sobbing mess after he killed his own family? Do you think that he would cry over some boy who just lost his mother before killing or trying to kill the said boy? No, he would laugh at the boy, and you know that, better than anybody else!"
Harry was quiet, and sobbed once more. Somehow Hermione knew that this time he didn't think of the Death Eaters he had killed, but his own mother, killed by Voldemort.
"I thought so" said Hermione. They held each other for a while, until Hermione could feel Harry relaxing for a bit.
"Let's go", she said. "You need a long, hot shower, and then you need to sleep. You're wasted."
Hermione rose up, took the yew wand from Harry and straightened her clothes. She felt for the wards: the Order had apparently managed to lower the anti apparition wards. She nodded to Kingsley who had taken control of the scene that everything was fine and she would take care of Harry, and apparated both of them to the safe houses they were using.
The next morning breakfast was a quiet affair between Harry and Hermione. The Daily prophet that had been reduced to a weekly Order controlled newsletter because of the war had printed a special edition, with a full page photo of Harry taken when he was still at school on the front page with a huge headline "Harry Potter Kills Dark Lord" with a bold declaration of "War Is Over" under the picture. Hermione had been hesitant to show the paper to Harry, as she knew well how sensitive he was with everything that was written about him. And she had been right: Harry had fallen deeper into his funk after seeing the picture and the headlines.
"What's the matter, Harry?", Hermione asked carefully.
"It's just that everybody is cheering for me, just like the Death Eaters were cheering for Voldemort when he killed people. I can't take part in any celebration after what I did yesterday."
Hermione nodded quietly.
"Now I can't go anywhere, even less than before. Before it was just something I had survived over a decade earlier, now it's something I've done yesterday."
Harry pushed his bacon and scrambled eggs around his plate.
"All this fighting and what for? Now I can't show myself in public even that much that I could before."
Hermione was looking at the table. Maybe this was the opening she had hoped for. Of course she knew that Harry would do anything she asked for, but now this could perhaps be beneficial to Harry too.
"I've been thinking", she said slowly, fidgeting with her fork, "now that the war is over, I think I'll go see my parents in Australia, and see if they want to come back. I haven't seen them for four years, you know, and I was thinking if... I mean, would you..."
"Of course I'll come with you. You've been with me all this time, You helped me to win this war, the least I could do is to come with you to look for your parents. It's not like I have anything I want to do back here."
"Oh thank you Harry! Thank you..." cried Hermione, hugging Harry tightly.
Magic is a wonderful thing when you need to travel. Harry and Hermione were out of the country before any well-wishers managed to find their safe house, and the combination of magical and muggle transportation methods made it practically impossible for anyone to track their way to down under. Conjured passports and visas were used while crossing borders as muggles, apparition and portkeys whisked them from city to another without delay.
When Harry and Hermione arrived to Brisbane where Hermiones parents were hiding, it was early morning and sun had just risen over the horizon. Harry and Hermione had spent the previous night in Singapore, which was the final stopping place where they could get by using only domestic apparition and crossing borders by land as muggles. From Singapore they had taken the early morning plane to Darvin, Australia, where they had been able to secure an intercity portkey to Brisbane without raising any questions.
As miles were adding between England and Harry and Hermione, Harry was getting increasingly more relaxed. The evening in Singapore had been a good one, they had eaten a quiet dinner in a small local restaurant, enjoying the South-East Asian cuisine. And the Australian wizards at the portkey station of Darvin hadn't looked twice at the two young people asking for a portkey to Brisbane. The biggest Australian wizarding newspaper had mentioned the end of the British war in their editorial, but the front page was reserved for the latest scandal involving a pair of local celebrities, Quiddich players Ollie and Willie Wright, 'The Flying Brothers'.
Harry and Hermione were enjoying the sunshine over the Brisbane River walking along the waterfront of the Botanic Gardens. Hermione had agreed with her parents on elaborate safety arrangement for contacting them in Australia. According to that agreement they had agreed to meet at a café in the city centre at three, and would arrive there one hour earlier. That meant Harry and Hermione had a few more hours to spend together before meeting with Hermiones parents, Emma and Dan Granger.
"I'm so glad you asked me to come with you, 'Mione", Harry said as they stopped at a small deli to buy some lunch and returned to the park to eat. "If I had stayed in England I'd be alone somewhere trying to hide from all reporters and well-wishers while brooding about how I had nothing to live for. Now I'm here in Australia with you where no one knows me and I can pretend that nothing bad has happened."
"You know that you can't pretend forever, but I'm glad you came, too."
Later that night when Harry was laying in his bed he looked back to the day. Hermione's parents had been thrilled to see their daughter and hear that the war in Britain was finally over. They had drank a few cups of coffee in Brisbane, and then driven about fifty miles South where the Grangers had their house by the beach. It was at that beach where Harry had walked with Dan shortly before sunset where he had finally come to accept some of the things he had been forced to do during the war. He now understood that he had done those things because he had to, and that it didn't make him a bad person that he had killed the enemies. And the fact he felt bad for them was the best possible proof of that.
He had also learned, while he watched Hermione reconnect with her parents, that there had been a reason for his fight, that it hadn't all been just because of some stupid prophecy made by some old woman who had seemed to like her liquor a bit too much. He had fought it also for his friends, their families, and if Emma was right with her suggestive questions and Hermione's reactions to them, perhaps even for himself.
A/N: It started as a one-shot about the idea of using time turner repeatedly to create a literal army of one man, but it then begun to grow, and as the beginning had a nice prologue feel to it I decided to divide the story in three chapters. And in the end the Preparations -chapter grew to be the largest one with all kinds of smaller concepts explained (Île de la Sorcière and the Tempus charm with solar time come first to mind), and the actual battle didn't play as large role any more. And then out of somewhere came a tiny bits about the romantic relationship between Harry and Hermione.
All in all I'm relatively happy with how this ended up, and that I was once again able to push the envelope on the length of the story. I have the skeleton of an even longer story brewing in the subconsciousness, something with an independent Harry on his fifth year and how he figures out that there is a prophecy concerning him from hints dropped by Voldemort's visions, Arthur being attacked in the DoM, meeting Neville's parents at St. Mungo's and so on. But we'll see if that will ever amount to anything.
Anyway, thanks for reading, any comments will be appreciated.