"Wormtail!" Harry breathed, his eyes wide with shock. "How did you…where have you…?"
"Hello Harry," Wormtail spoke so softly he could barely be heard. His expression was unreadable, and if he weren't a ghost Harry was quite sure he would be sweating right now. Wormtail's hands were clasped together in front of him, his fingers tapping lightly against his skin in a sporadic pattern.
"Wormtail?" Mel spoke up quietly. "Is this the one you told me about?" she asked, looking from the ghost to Harry, who nodded in reply.
"We should go," Malfoy spoke up suddenly. Harry glanced towards him to see he appeared ready to just take off through the door on the opposite side of the room.
"Wait," Harry said quickly, turning back to face Peter's ghost. "What are you doing here?" he asked. "Did you know we were here?"
"I knew," Wormtail nodded, looking apprehensive…as if something were truly bothering him at this moment.
"How long have you been here?" Harry asked, getting an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach. "I haven't seen you since October."
Wormtail averted his eyes from Harry's gaze quickly, and glanced over his shoulder at the door.
"Harry…let's go," Draco hissed, insistently, starting to back step across the room.
"Yes," Mel spoke up, nodding quickly. "I think we really should…"
"Wait!" Peter said suddenly, holding his hands out in front of him. "Just…just a…a second…" he stammered as his form hovered close to the wall behind him. Without warning he spun around, slamming his fingers into the small space in the wall that served as a lever for the secret door, and shoved it open harshly.
"Wormtail!" Harry cried in shock and anger, as he felt Mel grab his arm suddenly, trying to pull him back.
"I'm sorry," Wormtail whispered, still unable to meet Harry's gaze, before spinning around to the opening before him and yelling out loudly. "Here! They're in here!"
Harry's jaw dropped as he stepped away from Wormtail slowly.
"Come on Potter!" Malfoy's voice called out angrily as he ran up to Harry and grabbed him by the arm. Harry glanced to him, nodding once, before turning to make sure Mel was still at his side, and grabbing her hand. The three spun towards the opposite wall together, only to see the open door slam shut before them.
Feeling an overwhelming sense of dread building within him, Harry turned around slowly. He felt Mel's grip on his hand tighten, and she let out a small gasp, at the sight in front of them.
There were four death eaters standing in the room, Wormtail, cowering behind them, and Lucius Malfoy was front and center. He looked slightly disheveled, Harry noticed, his hair was uncommonly messy, and his clothes were dirty and ripped in some places. Taking a menacing step forward, he glowered darkly at the three students.
"Potter," he drawled slowly, a wicked smile on his lips. "Lord Voldemort wishes to speak with you." Harry glared back at him defiantly, refusing to show the fear that was causing his heart to pound in his chest. Lifting his head slightly, Lucius continued on, addressing the death eaters whose wands were out and aimed at the three students. "You three, get them, we'll bring them downstairs…our master awaits us."
Harry gritted his teeth angrily as Wormtail slipped meekly out of the room and the death eaters came around behind them, holding them at wandpoint and motioning for them to move forward.
"Dad," Draco began, earnestly. "Just listen to me for…"
"You do not speak to me!" Lucius hissed, before continuing, darkly. "And never address me in that way again…you are not my son."
Harry truly felt sorry for Draco in that moment, and could see the pain of his father's words in the Slytherin's eyes. But in the next instant, they seemed empty of emotion, and he spoke evenly.
"Right now I wish I wasn't…but even you, in all your great power, can't change that fact."
"I don't care about blood, boy," Lucius spat. "You betrayed me. You turned away from all that I've given you, all that I've shown you…and all for him…" he trailed off disgustedly, glaring at Harry.
"You would have let me die," Draco said crisply. "If I hadn't done what I did you would have taken us to Voldemort and he would have killed me."
"Which shows that I have a sense of loyalty, and you do not," Lucius snarled, growing impatient. "Any son who would turn in his own father…does not deserve to live."
The two Malfoys looked long and hard at one another and Harry could feel the thick tension in the air, when Lucius abruptly stepped forward, grabbing Draco roughly by his arm and turning towards the door.
"Enough of this!" he hissed angrily. "I will not keep Lord Voldemort waiting any longer…"
He started forward, dragging Draco alongside him and stepped through into Dumbledore's office. The death eaters behind Harry and Mel took their cue, and shoved the two students forward violently, keeping their wands trained on them as they began to walk. Mel's hand was still tightly clasped in Harry's, and she glanced up at him, a fearful expression on her face. He tried to give her a reassuring look, but couldn't.
This was it. They'd lost.
From what Lucius had said, Voldemort was in the school already. Dumbledore was unconscious…or worse, for all they knew. Snape hadn't been woken up in time to find anything out from him…and Remus was dead. Harry was sure they must have Neville, as no one else seemed to know where he was, and that was all Voldemort needed to end this.
He wished fervently that the rush of energy he'd felt when he was in the dungeon would return…he'd use it now, whether he was able to control it or not. But he couldn't feel the crystals' power in the slightest, and didn't know how to call upon it without being in their presence.
The small group crossed through the headmaster's office quickly, and Harry had to turn his head away from the sight of Remus' body, not wanting to let the grief consume him. No matter how hopeless the situation seemed, he couldn't let himself fall apart…not now.
Closer to the entrance, the floor was scattered with the corpses of many Fleshcrawlers, and, to Harry's relief, he did not see Sirius, Marzia or Snape among them. He knew they were most likely taken by the death eaters, but if they'd been killed, their bodies would have been left there, just as Remus' had. Knowing they were alive was all that mattered to him right now.
They seven of them descended the stairs quickly, and were soon moving swiftly through the dark, empty halls.
As the small group walked quickly through the deserted corridors, the pain in Harry's leg began returning in full. The wound hadn't been closed at all, only cleaned…and being made to put so much pressure on it again was beginning to wear on him, however, he was more concerned at this moment, with the walls they were passing, and more specifically…the shadows. They were moving. Not just the shadows of the seven people that were striding along, but the others…that had no business doing anything other than remaining perfectly still. The small flickering of light from candles that lined the hall every few feet were not the cause of the movement either, as it seemed to be following them, shifting about erratically, seeming almost anxious.
Harry was positive it had to be Saaneeraa, and he had to pry his gaze away from the walls. Forcing his eyes to remain focused on what was just ahead of him, he refused to look back. He didn't know what was going to happen when Marzia's curse wore off…if that was even what it did. He only hoped nobody else got hurt.
Feeling Mel give his hand a squeeze, Harry looked down at her, realizing she had noticed his worried expression, and was now gazing at him in concern. He squeezed back, and tried to give her a reassuring look, as they continued on through the halls.
When the group reached the doors to the great hall, Harry was very grateful as Lucius brought them to a stop. His leg was throbbing, and the bandages Marzia had conjured for him began showing the smallest droplets of blood seeping through.
Malfoy pushed the double doors open and quickly strode through, dragging Draco beside him. Harry and Mel followed as well, the death eaters still behind them, into the grand room.
Harry couldn't believe the state of the majestic chamber that he'd spent so many days in. It was in ruins. The four great house tables had been violently shoved to the sides of the room, with such force they were splintered and broken. The windows were cracked and smashed, letting in a freezing draft, which made an eerie howling noise as it swept past.
The house banners that decorated the walls were shredded and torn. Most were barely managing to continue hanging. The only ones that remained untouched, were those of the Slytherin house.
There were no candles or lights anywhere in the great hall, and Harry couldn't distinguish the faces of the countless death eaters that lined the walls and patrolled the doorways. But what worried Harry more than this site, was the familiar coldness that was setting in. There were dementors nearby. He only prayed they did not come any closer…he didn't want to hear his parents screams ever again. And he didn't have his wand to protect himself.
The three students were brought to the left side of the hall, where a group of death eaters stood in a cluster. As they parted, Harry was relieved to see Sirius, Marzia and Snape. They looked tired and beaten…and had most certainly been disarmed…but they were alive. A look of relief spread across Sirius' face as he saw his godson, but his expression quickly became one of hatred, as his eyes fell upon his old nemesis.
Lucius ignored Sirius, however, and let go of Draco, pushing him towards the others, before turning to Harry and Mel.
"Not long now, Potter," he drawled, a smug look on his face. "How does it feel…knowing these are the last moments you have to live?"
"I'll be quite glad to never have to look upon your revolting face again Malfoy," Harry replied evenly, refusing to show any fear to this man.
Lucius stared back at him for a moment, before instantly reaching out and grasping one of Mel's arms, pulling her towards him forcefully and bringing up his wand.
Harry felt his throat tighten, knowing there was nothing he could do…and forced himself to appear calm. He steadied his breathing and glared evenly at Lucius.
"Maybe…you should live just a bit longer…" Malfoy spoke softly, holding Mel close to his body and running his wand down her face as she squirmed. "I would very much enjoy seeing your reaction…to each of your friends' deaths."
"Let her go Lucius," Sirius spoke up darkly, before Harry had a chance to reply. Everyone glanced to where Sirius stood, surrounded by death eaters who were all prepared to attack if they thought he was going to attempt anything.
"I wasn't talking to you, Black," Lucius replied calmly, barely sparing Sirius a glance before turning back to Harry and continuing to speak almost casually. "Do be quiet, won't you? Or your beloved godson will get to see you perish first…and I promise it will not be quick."
"I said," Sirius began again, completely ignoring Lucius' threat, "let her go." He took a measured step forward and the death eaters nearest him immediately raised their wands. Harry gasped silently and shook his head fervently, praying Sirius would just stop. They couldn't let it end like this…there was just no way. They had to stay calm and think.
Marzia could see exactly where Sirius' actions were leading them and she put a firm hand on his arm, pulling him back a pace.
"Not yet," she spoke quietly.
Sirius seemed for a moment as if he were going to ignore her as well, but when he caught sight of the look in her eyes, which mirrored Harry's; he nodded faintly.
"What do you say, Potter?" Lucius spoke up darkly, staring intently at Harry who turned to meet his gaze once more. "Your godfather…or your girlfriend? Who should go first?" He asked, smiling wickedly.
"I won't answer that," Harry replied evenly, clenching his hands into fists as he saw Malfoy tighten his grip on Mel, and he could see her trembling. He wanted to scream at him, to pry his filthy fingers away from her…he wanted to hurt Lucius, or worse, but as his leg shook unsteadily beneath him, and he had nothing to use in the way of a weapon, he merely stood there, waiting.
"Fine," Lucius replied. "Then I'll choose…" he trailed off, running his fingers through Mel's hair now. Harry could feel the anger coursing through him, and was trying hard to contain it, when Lucius abruptly closed his fingers over a clump of Mel's hair, and yanked down hard, causing her to cry out in pain as he raised his wand to her throat. Harry made as if he were going to lunge forward, when suddenly the door at the back of the room slammed open loudly.
Every pair of eyes in the room turned in the direction of the noise, to see several more death eaters slowly enter the room, followed by the ghost of Wormtail, who looked quite terrified…and at long last…Lord Voldemort strode confidently into the great hall.
Harry's scar immediately seared with pain, and he could not prevent himself from raising his hands to clutch it, gritting his teeth. His eyes watered and faint tears began to trickle down his face. Harry only opened his eyes when he heard Lucius Malfoy's quiet laugh, and he glared at the death eater through blurry vision. He was obviously enjoying seeing Harry in this state, and opened his mouth, no doubt to make some snide comment, when Voldemort's high, cold voice filled the room.
"Release that worthless girl, Lucius…we have more important matters to tend to…and I've waited long enough…" he trailed off, setting his dark, wicked gaze upon Harry. "Bring him to me."
Sirius looked as if he were going to try and prevent Malfoy from laying a finger on his godson, but Lucius did as he was told, and let go of Mel, shoving her violently into Sirius, not bothering to watch as both of them fell roughly to the floor, before taking hold of Harry's arm and forcing him towards the dark lord. The group of death eaters formed a loose circle around Harry's friends once more, training their wands on them to assure they didn't try anything else.
Harry felt only dread in the pit of his stomach as Lucius dragged him across the room, bringing him to a halt in front of the tall, dark figure that was Lord Voldemort. His scar was still aching fiercely, and he had to fight to keep his breathing steady, and to not let his fear take over.
"It is time, Harry Potter," Voldemort spoke anxiously, his voice nearly a whisper. "Our battle has been long, and very trying…but today it ends, and I am the victor." Harry inhaled sharply as the penetrating red eyes bore into his own, biting down hard to keep from crying out, as another flash of pain seared through his scar.
"Where are my friends?" Harry spoke darkly, his voice unsteady.
"They're alive," Voldemort replied, his lips curling into a thin smile.
"I want to see them," Harry said, trying to sound forceful, demanding.
"You are in no position to make any requests of me, Potter." Voldemort replied, a pleasant tone to his voice. "However, I had intended to let them witness your end…" he trailed off, turning to one of the nearby death eaters and nodding once. The servant quickly bowed his head, taking a step back and heading for the door that Voldemort had entered through only moments earlier.
Harry watched him go for a moment, before glancing around the room once more. There were too many of them. Death eaters were everywhere, and the dementor's aura was still there…just beyond his reach, for which he was glad. He knew Voldemort could never allow them to use their deadly kiss on him if he wanted to claim Harry's powers, but he could torture him with the sounds of his parents' screams, and that was something he wished to never experience again.
Shaking the thought from his head, Harry turned his gaze slowly, and his eyes fell upon the nervous form of Wormtail's ghost.
Voldemort laughed quietly as he noticed where Harry's eyes were focused.
"Missed your new friend, did you?" he asked tauntingly, before his voice became dark and serious. "Wormtail is mine. He has always been mine. And had it not been for your stupid actions last summer, he never would have been forced to help you in his new form."
"He was never my friend," Harry spat in disgust, glaring hatefully at Wormtail. "I was much happier when he stopped showing up…"
"I'd imagine," Voldemort spoke quietly, a faint smirk on his face. "He told me all about what happened while he was here. Both while you knew of his presence, and while you did not."
Harry stared at Voldemort for a brief moment, before realizing what he'd just said.
"You…you had him spying…didn't you?" he asked, knowing that had to be the answer.
"Of course I did!" Voldemort hissed, suddenly angry. "Especially after the incident with that girl…the supposed defender. I knew for certain on that particular night, that Saaneeraa was keeping something from me. I had Wormtail at the school prior to that night as it was, but when the defender turned out to be a hoax, I had him concentrate on finding out exactly what it was she was trying to keep hidden. It was increasingly difficult, however, as she was easily able to sense his presence. The lies to you about Lucius' traitor son being the link that has to be severed in order to end your life, was most likely so you would not inadvertently say the true name in front of Wormtail."
"Well if you couldn't get any information," Harry began, "then why keep sending him back?"
"I never said I couldn't get information," Voldemort spoke quickly. "He was most helpful in returning the bottle to you after you'd so neatly disposed of it. He is also the reason I knew when you'd be making your short visit with your relations, though that turned out much worse than I'd hoped…" he trailed off, suddenly looking curiously at Harry.
"Where is our scheming friend, anyway?" he asked, a sly smile crossing his face. "I haven't seen her…or any of her abysmal servants, since I arrived. I have yet to thank her for all of her…help."
Harry started to shake his head, not sure exactly how to answer, and wondering why Voldemort seemed so confident when it came to facing Saaneeraa, but was distracted as the door at the back was flung open roughly. The death eater from before stalked back into the great hall, followed by Ron, Hermione, Ginny and Neville. Several more death eaters were just behind them, and at first Harry was so glad to see his friends alive and well, that he didn't notice the last two death eaters in line were holding something between them. As his eyes grazed past them, he did a double take, realizing what it was.
The trunk that contained the crystals.
Harry looked at his friends, who were brought to a halt several feet to his right, as Voldemort was instructing the death eaters to set the trunk down just beside him. Ron was looking back at him, hopelessness and defeat in his eyes. Harry could see both Hermione and Ginny were crying faintly, and Ron did his best to comfort them, while Neville appeared nearly frozen with fear.
"Now," Voldemort spoke, arrogantly, "let us waste no further time. Bring me the guardian."
Harry felt his body tense up, as the death eaters near his housemates grabbed Neville roughly, forcing him forward as he struggled against them. Ron and Hermione both looked as if they might try to stop them, but the other death eaters trained their wands on the students, and they had no choice but to watch.
"Wait," Harry spoke shakily, trying to drive down the fear rising within him. Neville was pushed to the center of the room, barely two feet from Harry, and Voldemort moved slowly towards him.
"I've been looking for you for quite some time now…Neville Longbottom," he spoke icily. "Saaneeraa did a splendid job in keeping you a secret, but it was all in vain."
"Don't…don't do this," Harry spoke, his voice echoing back weakly in his ears. He was looking from Neville's scared expression to Voldemort's triumphant one.
"Don't waste your breath, Harry," Voldemort spoke, sneering at him. "I have waited far too long for this moment. I know that Saaneeraa has been preparing you so she could take control of your powers…and I knew her plan was to take effect today. Unfortunately for her, she will be absent for the ceremony, and I will become more powerful than any wizard in existence!"
Harry shook his head slowly, wishing he could just concentrate for a minute…they needed a way out of this and they needed it now. He could vaguely hear his godfather's voice…and knew he was yelling something to Voldemort, but he couldn't make it out. He'd begun to hear a small tinny voice, so diminutive it was tickling his ears, but it was far too unclear for him to understand what it was saying.
His brow knitted stressfully as he tried to listen, but his attention was pulled away almost immediately as Voldemort let out a high cruel laugh. He glanced up to see the dark lord turning away from his godfather, who had a hateful expression on his face. Harry could only guess he'd made some attempt at intimidating Voldemort, in an effort to stop him from what he was doing, and Voldemort, of course, would see it as an empty threat. All of his friends looked as apprehensive and scared as Harry himself felt…and the fact that he had no way to change the situation scared him above all else.
As Voldemort drew out his wand and aimed it directly at Neville, he heard his friend inhale sharply and slam his eyes shut. Harry watched, disbelief washing over him fully, as he heard the dark lord speak the two most feared words in the wizarding world. As Neville's lifeless body began to fall backwards from the impact of the curse, Harry could only stare, and as it collided harshly with the cold, stone floor, arms flinging out to its sides, he stood by, gaping at his friend.
He heard Ginny and Hermione crying, and could hear shouts coming from the other side of the room as well. His friends were in an uproar over what had just happened, and all Harry could do was stare at Neville's still body. As Voldemort finally shouted something that silenced the room at once, Harry finally looked up, meeting the harsh, red eyes. He couldn't…he wouldn't…watch another death happen right in front of him.
"We're almost done," Voldemort said darkly.
"You're going to pay," Harry said, his voice entirely steady, ignoring the comment. "I promise you."
"I grow tired of these empty threats," Voldemort spoke, a deadly edge to his quiet voice. "You are powerless to stop me…and you will do as I command!"
Harry could hear the tinny voice in his head slightly clearer now, but as he began to strain his ears, in an effort to make out the words, Voldemort spoke again.
"Come forward now, Harry Potter," he demanded, a cruel expression on his face, "Come forward and unlock the chest which contains the Psicrystals."
Harry remained perfectly still, glaring defiantly at the dark lord. A mix of emotions was twirling within him. Anger for Neville, grief for Remus, and fear…for what was still to come.
"Bring him here," Voldemort spoke, sounding annoyed.
Two death eaters took hold of Harry's arms and forced him forward, past Neville's lifeless body and bringing him to a halt just beside the trunk.
"Now," Voldemort hissed, stepping towards him, and Harry felt the pain in his scar increase so harshly he had to bite down against it. Sweat was forming along his head, running into his eyes, stinging them. "Open it."
"No," he spat angrily. "I won't."
"You will!" Voldemort cried. "Or I will let you watch yet another of your friends die."
Harry glared up at him hatefully, but his insides were twisting sickeningly. He knew Voldemort would do it…
"Maybe that is, in fact, exactly what you need…for motivation," Voldemort spoke, clearly growing impatient; he glanced up at the death eaters nearest Harry's best friends and smiled wickedly. "How about we start with one of the Weasleys?" he drawled.
Harry's jaw dropped in horror as Ron was pulled away from the others and forced over to where both Harry and Voldemort stood. He was thrown to his knees and they held his arms behind him as he struggled to free himself. Harry could again here the cries of his friends, the shouting…but he wasn't truly listening. He had shifted his gaze to the trunk…knowing it was his only chance…
Without a second thought Harry dropped to the floor, while Voldemort was looking at Ron, he had a moment's distraction. He lowered his eye to the keyhole, feeling the familiar rush of energy as it sprang open, and the lid began to rise slowly. Thrusting his hand forward, Harry intended to take all the crystals quickly, before anyone could stop him, but hesitated, feeling a sense of defeat wash over him at what he saw.
The courage crystal wasn't there. He'd forgotten Lucius had taken it from him earlier. Before he had a chance to think, he heard Voldemort's angry cries and felt rough hands grab him once more, as he was forced to his feet.
"That was a very stupid thing to do, Harry," Voldemort spoke icily, glowering darkly at him as he struggled in vain to free his arms. He'd been so close…
The only good thing that had come from it, however, was Voldemort now seemed quite uninterested in Ron, as he turned his greedy red eyes upon the crystals.
"Lucius," the dark lord spoke crisply, not sparing the death eater even the smallest glance. "Give me the last stone."
Malfoy nodded, throwing Harry a smug look as he rushed forward obediently, drawing the crystal out of his cloak and handing it to his master. Harry cringed as he watched Voldemort turn the gem over in his hand, feeling all hope was lost. The voice that had been constantly twittering away was getting no clearer, and Voldemort had what he wanted. All that was left…was for Harry to die.
Everyone seemed to be frozen in place, as the room watched the dark lord in silence. Even Harry's friends, who had been shouting relentlessly since Voldemort's arrival, seemed to have given up. Harry knew they were defeated…and he could only pray they would be left alone after he was killed. He was certain, however, that this would most likely not be the case. Voldemort was quite adamant about disposing of all who worked against him, and that certainly included Harry's friends.
He watched in dismay as Voldemort lowered himself down towards the chest, laying the stone gently in its place, and as soon as he did so, Harry felt a jolt of energy within him.
They're together; you have to take them now.
Harry's brow furrowed as he heard the familiar voice in his head.
Professor Snape? he thought back, confusedly. Is that you?
No time for explanations Harry! came the anxious reply. You have to do this now!
Harry glanced over his shoulder slowly, leaning his head back to see past the death eater just beside him, and looking to where his godfather and the others were being held. He spotted Snape through the loose circle of men surrounding his friends, staring back at him intently. He looked beyond exhausted and Harry thought he might pass out from the strain he seemed to be placing on himself.
How? he asked. I don't know what to do…
You feel them, don't you? You feel the crystals. They're too close for you not to sense anything.
Professor Snape you don't understand! Harry thought back, fearfully. Allison…Cole…they didn't show me anything! I don't know how to…
Shut up a moment and listen! Snape's voice came, angrily. You have used their power in the past without having control of them. I know you couldn't direct that power in any way, it was far too erratic. It will always put a strain on you to call on them without having possession of them, but if you can do anything…anything at all, that will let you get to them, to take control, then you must do it.
How do I call on them? Harry asked, feeling a fresh burst of panic that he struggled to quash as he saw Voldemort was now turning away from the crystals to face him once more.
You have to concentrate! Do exactly as you did when you were calling on them before, only this time you will not have possession over them.
Harry looked intently at the trunk, his heart racing in his chest, having no idea what to do. If by some miracle he managed to do what Snape was asking of him, what then? He didn't know how to use any of the powers he would have access to, and it could all prove to be nothing more than a futile attempt.
He called out to them in his mind, praying for any response…any at all, when Voldemort began to speak.
"It is time we brought this little gathering to a close," he said eagerly, his red eyes glinting maliciously.
Please just answer me! Harry screamed in his mind at the stones, ignoring Voldemort, knowing he was out of time.
"I don't want to waste any further time," Voldemort continued. Looking at the two death eaters that were still holding Harry, he nodded faintly. "Release him."
The two death eaters obeyed immediately, knowing what their master was going to do, and not wanting to get in the way of the deadly curse. They backed away a short distance, and began watching with the others.
Harry knew Voldemort was still speaking, he could hear the high, cruel voice, but he paid no attention. The crystals were all he cared about right now. He didn't hear his friends crying, or his godfather's shouting, he didn't even notice when Voldemort at last drew his wand from his cloak.
Suddenly, without warning, the air in front of him seemed to be filled with immense heat, and he couldn't see clearly through to where Voldemort stood, less than five feet away. Everyone in the room noticed it, and a few of the death eaters gasped. His friends had gone utterly silent, and one lone voice, the voice of the courage crystal, echoed through his head.
We are finished.
The air before him cleared immediately, and Harry felt a very strange tingling sensation that faded as quickly as it came, before glancing back up.
He heard his friends gasp in horror, as they watched Voldemort raise his wand, slowly. The dark lord seemed almost hesitant for a brief moment, but his features quickly hardened, becoming stony and determined, before speaking darkly.
The blast of green light left the tip of the wand instantly, and hit Harry's chest full on, knocking him roughly to the floor.
For a brief moment, no one moved, barely anyone even breathed, as Lucius stepped immediately over to Harry's still form, checking him over quickly before looking up and smiling victoriously.
"He's dead. He's not breathing."
The death eaters in the room were all smiling now, looking almost relieved as Harry's friends erupted in anger and sadness, Sirius was screaming and cursing vehemently as Marzia tried to hold him back, tears streaming down her face. Snape was merely standing perfectly still, a blank expression on his face, while Mel was crying hard, leaning on Draco's shoulder. Across the room, Ron was still on his knees, being held by the two death eaters, staring at Harry's still form in disbelief, while Ginny and Hermione were hugging each other and crying, when suddenly, the dark lord's booming voice filled the hall.
"We are not finished yet," he spoke clearly, before turning eagerly and facing the trunk of crystals. Moving forward, an unreadable expression on his face, the other death eaters snickered, clapping each other on the back and grinning triumphantly, as they watched the dark lord lower himself down to the open chest. Slowly, he began to raise his hand towards the stones.
"Are you sure it's safe, master?" Lucius Malfoy spoke up hesitantly, stepping closer to where Voldemort was kneeling.
"Why wouldn't it be?" the dark lord replied, icily. It was quite obvious he did not want to waste any time.
"We know that Saaneeraa was lying to us…what if there was more to it than just killing Potter?"
"Then I'm about to find out, aren't I?" Voldemort replied crisply. "We also know she was planning on doing just as I am about to." Without waiting another second, Voldemort lowered his hand to the first crystal in line, holding his hand above it.
"Are you sure you know what you're doing?" Lucius spoke again. "How do you call upon…?"
"Shut up!" Voldemort hissed, angrily and Lucius backed up a pace as the flashing red eyes bore into his own. "I will wait no longer, and that is final."
Turning once more to the crystals, the dark lord let his hand hover above the stone closest to him. No one spoke, as he suddenly ran his hand along, above each of the gems, all of them beginning to glow brightly, before shattering into glittering bits. Only he could see as their auras surrounded him, in a whirlwind of radiant colors.
Taking a deep breath, a small grin touching the corner of the dark lord's lips, he lifted his hands to the lid of the trunk, slamming it shut with a resonating bang.
"You're a coward."
Voldemort's head turned to his left, where Ron Weasley was still being held by the death eaters. He had a defiant glare on his face, which was streaked with faint tears, and was staring hatefully at the dark wizard.
"What did you say?" Lucius spoke up sharply, looking menacingly at the redheaded wizard.
"You obviously heard me," Ron spat, lunging forward slightly as he spoke, but unable to move far. "You're all cowards!"
"Ron…don't!" Ginny's voice cried out weakly, filled with fear for her brother.
"Is that so?" Lucius replied darkly, his eyes fixed on Ron's own, before turning and looking down towards his master. "I think it's time we start disposing of Potter's friends…starting with this one."
Voldemort looked evenly up at Lucius, before slowly beginning to stand. He glanced once more at Ron whose jaw was set in determination, and took several steps away, towards Harry's still form.
"Master," Lucius spoke uncertainly, sounding confused. "I thought you…"
"Lucius," Voldemort's voice snarled angrily. "I want you to stop speaking now. I have no interest in your stupid ideas and I will not listen to any more of your nonsense."
"But…my lord…" Lucius stammered, aghast, "you, yourself told me that…"
"I'm telling you now, you fool. Shut your mouth or you will regret it."
Lucius bowed his head, his eyes glinting darkly as he looked at his master, but he made no further reply.
Everyone in the room was now staring curiously at Voldemort, who lowered himself down to his knees beside Harry. The death eaters had begun to murmur questioningly to one another. Something was indeed, very strange here. Most were passing it off, at the moment, to whatever had just happened when the crystals disappeared as their master touched them, but it was quite clear that they were nervous.
Lucius, however, was more than nervous…he was suspicious. The dark lord had never before passed up a chance to eliminate one of his enemies at such an easy opportunity, and had, in-fact, told Lucius that was his plan. It seemed he was not acting as himself.
Malfoy decided abruptly to confront Voldemort, to demand he explain himself, when suddenly the air once again grew intensely hot, and no one could see clearly through the haze that seemed to be centered around the dark lord and Harry's body.
It barely lasted a moment, however, and Lucius immediately started towards Voldemort, a resolute expression on his face, when he came to an abrupt halt.
The dark lord had slumped forward, and sank to the floor, unmoving.
Several minutes passed, an air of fear and panic in the room, and no one was sure what to do. Harry's friends were all staring wordlessly at the two still forms lying closely to one another, not knowing what to expect.
Every jaw dropped a brief moment later, however, when a sudden gasp of air was heard, and Harry immediately sat up. He brought his hands up to his throat, clutching it and literally pushing the oxygen in and out of his lungs as he wheezed loudly. The expression on his face was one of pain, but it didn't last long, and when he was able to breathe on his own, he looked up.
Everyone was staring at him in some form of shock. The death eaters appeared angry…furious, and frightened, while his friends were filled with such relief that their smiles could not have been any larger. He heard several of them cry out his name as he drew himself up, standing slowly. Through all the mix of emotions filling the expressions of every face in the room, there was one question Harry could see lingering in every pair of eyes.
How? How was it that Harry Potter was standing, while Lord Voldemort was now lying motionless on the floor?
"They…he…the switch…" Hermione's voice floated out eerily in the silent hall. Everyone turned to look at her immediately, most having no idea what she'd meant.
"The soul switch," she said louder, a large smile spreading across her face as she gazed at Harry. "You did it, didn't you?"
"I don't care what it is you did," Lucius Malfoy's voice interrupted before Harry could make any reply. "But I'm going to make sure you die for real this time." His eyes were flashing with insane fury and Harry met them evenly.
"No," Harry spoke clearly, shaking his head softly and keeping his gaze locked with Lucius'. The crystals were swirling around him slowly and he could feel their power filling him, flowing through his veins. He still didn't know exactly how to use them, but he felt more than confident he would be able to learn quickly.
"No what?" Lucius sneered as he and several death eaters began encircling Harry, their wands drawn.
"No," Harry repeated evenly, blocking out every other sound in the room, concentrating only on his enemies. "I'm afraid it won't be that easy."
"Let's find out then, shall we?" Lucius snarled, glaring hatefully at Harry. He and the other death eaters were moving around him slowly, regarding him cautiously. It was obvious they still felt quite confident they could win, but after what they had just witnessed, they were somewhat nervous. Voldemort was lying deathly still on the floor, and to all his servants, it was an unnerving sight. If he was truly dead, all that they fought for could come crashing down.
Harry stood his ground, watching as the dark-robed men surrounded him. He would have been terrified, had it not been for the mist of the crystals in the air around him. It had hurt him horribly to perform the switch with Voldemort, so much, in fact, that he could not even breathe when he returned to his own body, but as the crystals had left the dark lord's side and came to his, he felt his lungs fill with air, and any pain he was experiencing ended in an instant. Though standing here now, surrounded by dangerous men who all wanted to see him dead, Harry didn't have any idea what to do.
Professor Snape? Harry thought, praying he could still reply.
I hear you, came Snape's voice, immediately, before continuing on quickly. Listen carefully, you have everything you need to defeat them, don't take time to think about using the crystals and just use them. Their power is slowed if you concentrate too hard, just let it flow. And remember Harry…Neville is dead. If they manage to hit you fatally, you will die.
Harry swallowed hard; wishing Snape hadn't decided to remind him of that at this particular moment, but knew it was for his own safety. He could understand how easy it would be to think yourself immortal with all the power he was feeling at this moment. Forcing himself to steady his breathing, Harry closed his eyes for a brief moment, letting every thought in his head float away, clearing his mind. When he opened his eyes once more, he looked up into the dark glare of Lucius Malfoy.
"Kill the others first," Lucius' voice echoed through the silent hall. "Let him watch his friends die."
Harry had to force himself not to move, to lunge forward at his enemy as several death eaters on both sides of the room took hold of his friends roughly and began dragging them towards Lucius.
"Who to start with…" Malfoy drawled darkly as he glanced at the eight captives. "I personally, would love to start with this one," he snarled, glaring threateningly at his son. "Though Potter here probably wouldn't care too much, so I'll save you for later. No, better to start…with him," he finished, staring wickedly at Sirius.
"You're scum, Malfoy," Sirius spat, clearly wanting to lunge at Lucius but unable to break the hold of the death eaters grasping his arms. "You're lower than dirt, and I should have gotten rid of you long ago. We all knew what you would become, and if James and Remus weren't far better men than I, that's exactly what I would have done. It's because of them that I did no more than a few harmless pranks on you at school."
"I would hardly use the word harmless," Lucius hissed, obviously remembering back to his days at Hogwarts.
"You're alive, aren't you?" Sirius snapped back through clenched teeth.
"Unlike your two friends, who you hold in such high esteem," Lucius sneered. "Consider your death a favor, you'll be joining them soon."
Harry was barely paying attention to the spat between his godfather and Malfoy, he was trying to remain calm and use the crystals. When he'd switched with Voldemort only moments ago, it had all happened so fast he wasn't quite sure what he'd done, but everything was now depending on him at this moment.
As Lucius nodded to the death eater nearest him, Harry barely watched the other man step up in front of his godfather and raise his wand.
Kill him, the resolve crystal spoke harshly. We have no other choice.
We do though, the psychological crystal cut in.
Yes, there are other ways to stop him, the courage crystal added.
Harry listened to the voices flying through his head at such a speed he was amazed that he understood every word they spoke. It was all happening so fast that the death eater preparing to finish off Sirius had yet to begin speaking his curse, when a sudden image came to his mind.
No sooner had the picture come to him than the mist around him began swirling recklessly, and to Harry alone, the room grew amazingly bright. He saw the death eater begin to speak as if in slow motion, but the man was unable to finish as the bright lights filling the air, looking like a million tiny fireflies, surrounded the man, joining together and forming a shroud of flames.
A collective gasp could be heard echoing through the hall, and Harry smirked as the two men holding his godfather released him and stepped back a pace, staring in horror at their cohort, or rather at the blaze surrounding him.
Stepping forward, Harry closed the distance between he and the tall blaze quickly, before leaning close to it, all eyes in the room fixed on him.
"I know you can hear me," he said evenly to the death eater encased in the fire, a dark edge to his tone. "I suggest you don't move, if you want to stay alive. The flames won't touch you unless you try to escape."
He heard the death eater's panicked breathing, despite the crackling of the flames, but felt no pity for him. This man had been about to take his godfather's life, for no other reason than he was ordered to do so. Glancing away from the fire, Harry looked quickly at Sirius, who was smirking at his godson, before turning back to face Lucius Malfoy.
"Let my friends go," Harry said icily.
"No," Lucius hissed immediately. "Your little trick there doesn't scare me in the least."
"Would you like to join him?" Harry asked, nodding at the flames just behind him.
Lucius glared at him darkly before raising his wand at the fire.
"Stinguo!" he yelled out. A blast of water shot from the tip of his wand and splashed against the crackling blaze, before splattering to the floor, and evaporating.
Harry smirked, crossing his arms over his chest as Lucius' eyes widened slightly and quickly narrowed menacingly. He slowly looked over at the rest of the death eaters still holding his friends before speaking to them.
"Let go of my friends now…and give them back their wands."
The death eaters stared back at him uncertainly, no one daring to make a move one way or the other.
"Ignore him!" Lucius yelled harshly. "He is an amateur wizard…we can still defeat him!"
"But Lucius…what of Lord Voldemort?" one of them men spoke quietly.
"Yes, if this boy could defeat him so easily…" another began.
"Your spell had no effect on that fire either!" a third one called.
"We should reconsider…"
"Fools!" Lucius screamed suddenly, spinning around to face them all. "Are you all such cowards? There are over a hundred of us and ONE OF HIM!"
"I'm with you, Lucius," one of the men near the back spoke snidely as he stepped up to his fellow death eater.
"He can't possibly get to all of us at once," another spoke as he came up to Malfoy's other side.
Despite this, however, most of the death eaters still seemed far too nervous and uncertain. Harry knew he had a chance here, but he had to keep them believing they couldn't defeat him.
We need to take action now, the courage crystal spoke.
Kill one of them, the resolve crystal added, eagerly. It will surely convince them.
No! Harry replied severely. I'm not going to take their lives just to prove a point.
The wands, the focus crystal spoke up suddenly. Our friends need their wands.
Harry nodded once, deciding to start right there. He would feel much better about this if his friends could at least protect themselves to some extent. Feeling strongly that Lucius would be the one carrying the wands, he looked to the infuriated death eater immediately. Malfoy was still screaming angrily at some of the less enthusiastic death eaters, and Harry wondered if he might kill them himself, but wiped the thought from his head as he focused on the wands.
Barely half a second passed when suddenly Lucius' robes flew up around him, and just as Harry expected, all the wands he'd been holding sprang out from within his cloak. Harry had to stifle a laugh as the shocked death eater nearly fell over from the unexpected movement. Malfoy looked at the wands in horror as they shot across the room to their rightful owners. Harry's own wand came quickly to him, as did Remus' and Neville's, which he could not allow himself to think about just yet. Pocketing all three quickly, he turned to see his friends, grasping hold of their wands.
The death eaters holding his friends immediately tightened their grips, some trying to pry the wands away from their hands. Sirius, who was the only one free, immediately began fighting to help the others. He freed Marzia first and together they started in on the other death eaters. It was not an incredibly hard task as many seemed not to want to fight at this point, and merely watched the others, worriedly.
"You are still outnumbered, Potter," Lucius hissed, turning away from the scene and glaring at Harry.
"And it seems many of your men don't want to take part in the battle," Harry replied crisply, nodding towards the many death eaters backing away from the fighting. Marzia was attacking the death eaters holding Mel, while Sirius and Ron were closing in on the ones holding Ginny. Draco, Hermione and Snape were doing all they could to keep the rest of the death eaters from closing in on them.
"It's not your friends I care about anyway," Lucius growled through clenched teeth. "You may be able to do some things we can't…but you are not going to win this one."
Harry glanced around at the death eaters that had still remained near enough to him, ready for Lucius' orders, and they finally came. Malfoy glanced up at his men quickly, his eyes flashing with anger, before speaking quietly.
Harry once again had to force himself not to move as the death eaters began to close in on him. The crystals' haze was swirling around briskly, as he knew without a second thought; exactly what he wanted them to do. Holding his breath, he felt their power building up inside him, and if any of the death eaters had bothered to take a closer look, they would have seen the reflections of the stones in Harry's eyes, and his hair blowing up in the slightest away from his face.
Waiting until he felt the death eaters take his arms, Harry looked up once more at Lucius, smiling almost pleasantly at him, before he unleashed the energy.
The blast that came from Harry was enough to make the air surrounding him visibly ripple and the death eaters nearest him were blown backwards forcefully. He had to stifle a laugh as he watched Lucius' expression become one of horror, his eyes widening in fear and his jaw dropping, just before he was slammed so forcibly in his torso it lifted his feet from the ground and threw him several feet away.
Turning from the amusing sight, Harry looked towards his friends, who were all entirely unharmed by the energy that had only touched the death eaters. They were all glancing around in amazement, staring at the few untouched death eaters that were trying in vain to escape the blast. It was moving much faster than they could run, and in less than a minute from when Harry had released the power, every death eater in the room was lying on the floor, unconscious.
Letting out a long breath, Harry could not even bring himself to step forward. His legs had begun to shake the moment he'd let the relief set in, and he was barely aware of his friends calling out to him.
"Harry, that was amazing!" Ron yelled as he ran up to his friend.
"You saved us!" Ginny cried, excitedly.
"You were wonderful!" Mel smiled, throwing her arms around him fiercely.
"I can't believe it!" Hermione cried happily. "You stopped them all…and you defeated Voldemort!"
Even Draco managed to say something nice as he strode up beside the others.
"Nice job, Potter" he smirked. He glanced away once, towards where his father lay, but turned his gaze quickly.
Harry smiled at his friends tiredly, glancing towards the dark lord's still form with faint apprehension. He hadn't truly believed it would be so easy…and he still didn't. He stood where he was, somewhat hearing what his friends were saying, letting them hug him, but feeling uncertain.
"Are you alright, Harry?" Sirius asked at last, drawing his attention back as the others calmed down. "I'm sure it put a lot of strain on you…doing what you did."
"I'm fine," Harry nodded, mostly meaning it, before glancing to where Snape stood, slightly back from everyone else. "If it hadn't been for Professor Snape though, we'd all be dead. He's the one you should be thanking."
The others all turned immediately to Snape, whose eyes had gone wide with surprise after hearing Harry's words. A light blush rose in his cheeks and he nodded faintly at Harry, who nodded in return.
"What…what did Professor Snape do?" Hermione asked, curiously.
"I'll tell you later," Harry grinned. "I think for now…we should make sure the rest of the school is okay…and get rid of all of them…" he trailed off, nodding at the motionless death eaters.
Sirius nodded, as he, Marzia and Snape all started to turn away to get to work, when Mel gasped suddenly. Everyone froze looking to where she was still standing, one arm around Harry, but her eyes were fixed on something several feet away. Harry turned his gaze slowly, already dreading what he was going to see, and it was exactly as he feared.
Lord Voldemort had not been killed, and was slowly drawing himself up. He straightened his shoulders stiffly, before bringing his gaze to rest upon Harry, a hateful glint in his blood red eyes.
Harry slowly slid away from Mel's grasp and stepped in front of her, protectively. No one spoke for a brief moment, but he could sense all of his friends were ready for whatever may be coming…as ready as they could be, anyway. He glanced sideways as Sirius stepped up beside him; wand raised, and felt a heavy weight on his shoulders. His friends should not be in this…it wasn't their fight. He had no time to worry about that now, however, as his attention was drawn back to the dark lord, who was beginning to speak.
"Did you truly believe that it would be so easy to defeat me?" Voldemort drawled slowly, holding his wand at his side as he spoke.
"I had hoped so," Harry replied through clenched teeth, when suddenly he was hit with a realization. His scar wasn't burning…not in the slightest.
"Give up, Voldemort," Sirius spat, his eyes filled with anger. "We outnumber you…and you have no servants left to save you."
"Don't I?" Voldemort asked, a smug look crossing his face.
Harry glanced around nervously…even with the crystals, he didn't know if he'd be able to protect all of his friends from whatever Voldemort had in store for them.
"Do…does anyone…feel that?" Ginny's small voice spoke up quietly, and Harry recognized immediately what she meant. The cold air that was surrounding them…he'd forgotten about the dementors. Before anyone could make a reply however, the door that Voldemort had come through only a short while ago slammed open, and the dark cloaked beings began streaming in. Sirius, Marzia and Snape immediately stepped forward, shouting to the others to stay back, before beginning to attack the dementors.
Harry started to slip his hand into his pocket, knowing he would need his wand to make a Patronus, when suddenly he felt something seize him forcefully. He glanced down, but saw nothing holding him, as his feet lost their grip on the floor. Unable to stop his movement, Harry was drawn across the room, struggling against the force pulling him. His friends did not fail to notice what was happening to him, but he was taken too quickly. As they began to chase after him, leaving the adults to face the dementors, Harry watched as Ron, who was slightly ahead of the others, seemed to collide with the air, and hit the floor hard.
Hermione and Mel reached him first, and leant down to make sure he was alright, but Harry could see what was going on. Voldemort had brought in the dementors as a deadly diversion for his friends to deal with, and had used the only chance he had to get Harry alone.
"You think you're clever, don't you Potter?" Voldemort asked darkly, as Harry came to an abrupt stop just a few feet from where he stood. He looked up into the dark lord's eyes hatefully and stepped back a few paces as the crystals swirled around him.
"You can't win this one Voldemort," Harry spoke, confidently. "Your men are down and my friends can take care of themselves."
"I think you put too much faith in them," Voldemort said quietly, grinning and nodding towards the others. Harry turned immediately to see the dementors surrounding his friends. Marzia was doing exactly as she had done in Hogsmeade, but there were too many of them, and Sirius and Snape couldn't possibly take them all out with just the two of them producing Patronuses.
"Let them go," Harry said, crisply, staring at them helplessly through the shield. He had to get them out of there. "They have nothing to do with this."
"I let no one go," Voldemort replied. "They chose their side, now they will pay the price. Don't worry though, Potter…you won't be alive long enough to see any of your friends die."
Harry spun back around to face Voldemort, releasing the tension he was feeling and letting his energy flow freely. He felt an intense wave of heat wash over him, before an enormous fireball formed in thin air, and sped towards the dark lord.
Voldemort raised a hand, an amused expression on his face, and before the sweat could even form on his brow, he extinguished the ball of flame into nothing.
"Cute, Potter…" Voldemort spoke, casually, "but I can do that too." As if to prove it, he instantly formed an identical ball of flame in front of him, and sent it speeding at Harry, who let the stones do the work for him. They deflected the flames easily and he looked up to meet Voldemort's stare once more. "You really have no idea how to use your powers, do you?" the dark lord continued.
"I think you should look around you," Harry replied, gesturing to all the unconscious death eaters.
"You defeated a room of fully trained wizards…impressive," Voldemort spoke sardonically. "But they were only trained in the ways of human magic. You will find I know a great deal more than that."
"Is that why you're still alive?" Harry asked quietly. "Is that why the curse didn't kill you?"
"No," Voldemort smiled widely, his thin lips forming an eerie half moon against his pasty face. "That was your own stupid mistake."
"How so?" Harry asked evenly. Voldemort threw his head back and let out a high, cruel laugh, before smiling back at Harry.
"I have gone to great lengths to protect myself…to ensure I live, no matter what. Do you honestly think I would throw any of that away by telling you my secrets?" He shook his head, as if admonishing Harry with his stare, before continuing on, in a deathly serious tone. "You can't kill me Potter. You don't know how. All the power in the world at your precious fingertips, and you have no idea what to do with it."
Harry looked at Voldemort for a long moment. He was right…Harry had no idea how to get rid of him. He could hear his friends shouting to each other behind him as they fought with all they had against the dementors, but could not move his gaze as Voldemort raised his wand.
"This is it, Harry Potter," he snarled. "I'm tired of waiting…and I'm ending this now. Your guardian is dead, and now you will join him."
Harry thought frantically, knowing there was nothing he would be able to do to stop the curse that was surely coming. He looked behind him at the shield, but it would do no good to try and lower it, that would only leave one of his friends open to possibly getting hit should he successfully avoid the curse.
As he turned back around, he saw only the dark tip of Voldemort's black wand, and he heard his words echoing in his head.
You can't kill me Potter. You don't know how.
But he does know how, the resolve crystal spoke, its tone almost eager.
Harry nodded faintly, forcing himself to breath calmly. He felt the crystals' sense his wishes, and unexpectedly he felt as if he were being thrust forward violently, ripped from his own body. Everything was cold and dark for a split second, when suddenly he was bathed in light. He felt the warmth upon him, covering him in its radiance, and kept his eyes shut tightly. Every sound that he'd been hearing only seconds ago was gone, and he was cloaked in silence.
It felt as if he were moving in slow motion, wading through a thick substance that he could not see, and shapes started to form in front of him. They slowly grew clearer, and Harry could make out people all around, in a dark room. He nearly screamed when the room came into full view, however, and he found himself surrounded once again by countless death eaters. But he forced himself to hold in any noise, as he recognized the site.
It was only a short while ago, and Voldemort was standing before his servants, Harry only a few feet from him. Neville was still alive, but looking quite terrified, and Harry knew in that moment he'd been successful.
What he was seeing was a memory…he was inside Voldemort's mind.
We have to go back further, the psychological crystal spoke calmly.
How? Harry asked. He wasn't even sure how exactly he'd gotten into Voldemort's mind, just that the crystals had brought him here.
We're not in his mind…not physically, the memory crystal spoke up. We're still standing where we have been for the past few moments. Voldemort is remaining still as well.
Can he kill us? Harry asked suddenly, feeling a wave of panic. I mean…if we're both still exactly where we were.
Don't worry, the courage crystal replied. He can't move at the moment, not while we're in his mind. He will try to fight us, however…so we must be quick.
But what if someone touches us? The fear crystal asked, and Harry had the distinct impression the stone already knew the answer.
The hold is broken, the meticulous crystal replied firmly, and we will be pulled out of Voldemort's mind.
Will it be hard to get back in? Harry asked as the room suddenly went bright again.
We wouldn't be able to do it anytime soon, the psychological crystal answered. It will be a long while before we can re-enter his mind.
Then this is it, Harry thought as the light once again dimmed. Our last chance. He blinked several times to clear his vision, before turning to look at his surroundings, and gasping.
They were back in the graveyard, just after Voldemort had been reborn. He could see death eaters everywhere, encircling both Voldemort and himself, as the dark lord raised his wand. Harry squinted his eyes shut, remembering the pain all too clearly, as the light filled the air once more. The crystals were moving him gradually back in time through Voldemort's memory; to find anything they could on how to defeat him.
The light dimmed again, and another familiar sight met Harry's eyes, but this one didn't last more than a second. He saw himself in the chamber that held the Mirror of Erised with Professor Quirrell just beside him, when suddenly the vision was shrouded by the brightness that once again filled the room. The light went down again, he caught a glimpse of what looked like a cave surrounded by dead land, the next vision was much the same, the one following, however, Harry caught a glimpse of someone he immediately recognized as his mother, and he demanded the crystals to stop.
It's just a memory, the resolve crystal spoke firmly. We have to keep moving.
There's nothing we can do here, the stone spoke again.
Harry nodded stiffly as the lights grew brighter once more, knowing they were right and that they didn't have time to waste. It was best that he didn't view that particular memory anyway, as he already knew how it would turn out. He barely noticed as the memory crystal tried to speak, eagerly, when he felt a cold pressure closing in on him. He could actually feel a strain on his movement now. Voldemort was fighting against Harry's intrusion.
They flashed through several more memories that Harry did not recognize in the least, but he had to cringe away at the sight. Voldemort had truly loved to torture anyone who stood against him, and even in the brief flashes he was seeing, Harry felt sickened by what he was doing to his helpless victims.
As they continued on through, faster and faster, Harry saw Voldemort transform before him through his memories…back into the young boy he recognized from his second year…Tom Riddle. He could no longer make out any words, but he could see the jet-black hair, and the penetrating blue eyes. He strained to catch anything as the crystals pulled him further and further back, but Voldemort was becoming too strong, and was quickly regaining control of his own mind.
Suddenly, a low hum filled the air, and Harry looked around, feeling both nervous and anxious. He could see the images before him slowing down, but was barely paying attention anymore, as the sound grew steadily louder. In seconds it reached such a glaringly high pitch, that Harry clapped his hands over his ears in protest, but was unable to block out the noise, when he suddenly realized what it was.
It was the sound of someone's tortured screaming.
Not just someone, the meticulous crystal said loudly, Voldemort.
We are out of time, the psychological crystal cried darkly.
Harry could feel a wave of fear threatening to consume him, but pushed it back. They'd found nothing…nothing at all that would help them defeat the dark lord.
Trying to fight against the invisible force that was pushing him away, Harry was determined to find what they'd come for…when suddenly he felt a sudden jolt run sharply up his spine. It was followed immediately by another…and another…and Harry could feel himself being torn from Voldemort's mind. For a split second, he was once again surrounded by the cold darkness, before the warmth blanketed him once more, and he knew he was back in his own mind.
What happened? He asked quickly, but he got his reply before any of the crystals could answer. He was on the floor, and tried to scramble to regain his footing, but could not. There were dark tendrils of shadow that had coiled around his arms and legs…and were pulling him towards a most unnatural seeming shadow on the wall.
Harry clenched his teeth, fighting with all of his strength and wanting to kick himself for his stupidity. With all that had been happening…he'd forgotten about Saaneeraa. The shadows pulled him so swiftly he hadn't even the time to look towards his friends…to see if they were alright, before he was at the wall, and was forced through.
Once he was on the opposite side, the shadows released their hold on Harry instantly, and he watched as they retreated, back into the wall. He slowly raised his head, still feeling the pain from having been ripped away from Voldemort's mind and back to his own, when a soft laughter filled the air. Harry recognized the voice before he met the entity's gaze. Saaneeraa.
Slowly rising to his feet, Harry saw the place they were in was nothing but darkness and shadows. The wind was whipping relentlessly, blowing his hair away from his face and pelting him with miniscule pebbles that were caught in its flow. He held a hand up to his face in an effort to shield himself from the strong currents.
"Sorry to interrupt your fun out there," Saaneeraa drawled snidely, "but I grew tired of waiting…"
"Let me go," Harry interrupted curtly. He could see no way out of this place. Even the wall, which he was sure he'd seen when he'd been dragged here, was gone. "I'm not letting Voldemort escape…not this time."
Saaneeraa's eyes flashed with amusement as she laughed darkly.
"I don't think you need to worry about that anymore…" she said lightly, before her tone suddenly hardened as she continued, "and I want my powers now."
"They're my powers…and you'll never get them," Harry spoke calmly, meeting her gaze despite the harsh winds that only seemed to be affecting him.
"Is that so?" Saaneeraa asked, smirking. Harry didn't reply, he stood his ground staring straight back at the entity, when suddenly the shadows around him began to move. Harry felt dread begin to twist in his stomach, as the other five entities emerged from the surrounding darkness, and encircled him threateningly.
"Hello again, Harry," came the familiar layered voice that Harry had heard several times now. He glanced over his shoulder to see Draam standing behind him, his arms crossed over his chest. He realized, of course, why it had sounded so familiar. It was Cole's voice, speaking in over a dozen different octaves at once.
"So, this is the great Harry Potter?" a little girl asked, stepping forward to Harry.
"Don't go near him," Saaneeraa snapped hastily, and the girl recoiled instantly. Harry knew it had to be Fenestraal. As he looked at the others, he recognized the entity that must be Menetor from the description Sirius and Marzia had given him, and while he had never seen the last two, he knew they must be Elri'kah and Rolisch'kah.
"I thought they didn't get along," Harry said crisply, nodding at the entities but looking at Saaneeraa.
"They don't," she replied evenly. "I told you that already. But in my presence they will do as I command. Exactly…as I command."
All we need to do is get rid of her, the focus crystal spoke suddenly. If she's gone, they will destroy each other.
I caught that, thanks, Harry shot back sardonically. The area that I'm a bit fuzzy on is how? How do I get rid of her? I don't know how you kill an entity…let alone the most powerful one of them all.
Then don't kill her, the confidence crystal spoke.
Harry rolled his eyes and vowed that if he made it out of this, he would need to sit down with Snape and the crystals and have a serious talk about communication…
Snape! Harry thought suddenly. Professor Snape, are you there?
"No one can hear you Harry," Saaneeraa spoke contemptuously, "Not in this realm."
"And what realm would this be?" Harry asked, stiffly, trying not to show the fear that was starting to fill him. "Is this the infamous Faerun?"
"No, of course not," Saaneeraa laughed. "Though I wouldn't expect you to recognize this place. Not in its current state, that is."
"Well where are we then?" Harry asked.
The wind stopped whipping at him abruptly and everything went bright for a fleeting second. When the new sight came into view, Harry recognized Dumbledore's office.
"This…this isn't another realm," Harry said, feeling confused.
"From your point of view, I suppose not," Saaneeraa said quickly. "You see your headmaster's office."
"And that's really where we are?" Harry asked.
"No," Saaneeraa replied. "We are inside his head."
Harry could do nothing but stare at her for a moment, open-mouthed, before slowly finding his voice.
"How…why?" he asked, his throat feeling very dry.
"Because I'm going to kill him…and then your death will follow," Saaneeraa said, smiling wickedly.
"I thought you didn't care about anyone else as long as you got your powers," Harry spat hatefully, balling his hands into fists. "Just leave Professor Dumbledore alone!"
"Albus Dumbledore nearly spoiled everything for me," Saaneeraa hissed, hatefully. "I've had to work harder than ever to dodge his suspicions and place the blame elsewhere, and still at the end of it all I had to resort to faking illness to convey his doubts regarding my loyalty. Your friends can live or die, it makes no difference to me, but Dumbledore will die because I want him to," she finished, speaking stiffly, a dark glare fixed on her face.
"I won't let you kill him," Harry said evenly. He could hear the memory crystal whispering in his ear, and while he didn't know if he had the strength to do as it was suggesting, he was determined to either do it, or die trying.
"I highly doubt you could stop me," Saaneeraa smirked. "Draam and I were quite cautious to make sure you knew next to nothing about your powers, even with full control of the crystals you don't know all of their uses."
"But I know a lot more than you thought I would," Harry said confidently. "And I wonder if you really know as much about the crystals as you think you do…"
"If you're thinking of controlling my mind, you can forget it," Saaneeraa spoke, smugly. "It may have been easy for you to take control of Voldemort, but you will find doing the same to me will not be so easy…in fact, it would be quite impossible."
"No," Harry replied quietly, deciding not to wait for Saaneeraa to make the first move. He felt the powers of the crystals begin to fill him once more, racing through his veins and shining through his eyes. "I wasn't planning on doing that at all…"
Saaneeraa's eyes widened as she realized instantly what Harry was doing.
"Stop him!" she yelled angrily at her servants, who all looked alarmed at her sudden change in attitude.
Harry was very aware of the entities advancing on him quickly, but at the same time he knew…he knew…he could not stop what he was trying to do. He had to complete what he'd started, but didn't think there'd be enough time as he watched the dark figures close in…when suddenly he felt a faint tingling fill him entirely, followed by something he'd never felt before.
The crystals' powers were splitting. Harry didn't know how he knew it, but he did. They weren't physically separating, but the aura's around him were literally drawing back half of their energy to focus on the other entities.
Menetor was first to attack. Raising his arm above his head, he cracked his long, black whip against the air, while drawing energy with his free hand. Harry watched from the corner of his eye, as a silver ball of light formed in the entity's hand, and he held it in front of him for a brief moment, before hurtling it at Harry forcefully.
Harry stood his ground, and as the curse sped towards him, the stones instantly moved to intercept it. He watched as the multihued mist swirled in front of him, and in the last second before the silver light would hit him, the haze solidified, and the curse disintegrated on impact.
Menetor growled impatiently and Harry barely had time to breathe a sigh of relief, when both Fenestraal and Rolisch'kah stepped up on either side of him. Fenestraal called upon her power, forming another ball of silver light, identical to Menetor's, while Rolisch'kah produced a deadly black one, with thin currents of electricity running through it. Both curses, however, met the same fate as the first one, extinguishing immediately upon contact with the haze hanging in the air around Harry.
"Enough of this," the large gray entity with sharp horns on his head spoke disgustedly. Harry remembered his name to be Elri'kah. "Magic is not going to defeat a Psion." Without waiting for a reply, the large entity held out his hand, and in the next instant, he was gripping tightly to the hilt of an oversized battle-axe. Smirking wickedly, Elri'kah started forward.
Before Harry had a chance to let the sudden stab of panic he'd felt set in, the crystals' haze was seeping into his right hand. A soft, tingling sensation ran through his fingers as they were drawn together, and his hand became entirely stiff. He watched in amazement as his palm sunk inward, and his entire hand took on a two-dimensional appearance.
Looking up just in time to see Elri'kah heave the great battle-axe over his head, Harry brought up his hand in defense as the sharp end of the axe came crashing down. Harry steeled himself for the pain he was sure would be coming, but it never did, and when he heard a heavy clanging to either side of him, he was shocked to see two halves of the axe lying on the floor, sliced neatly down the center. His fingers had taken on a razor-sharp edge, and the axe was no match for his powers.
The large entity stepped back uncertainly and Harry looked away, shutting his eyes as his hand returned to normal. He wasn't afraid of them sneaking up on him anymore, the crystals were seeing for him at this moment. He could sense everything through them and felt their power spreading out; searching for the next possible attack, while the rest of Harry's energy was devoted to something else. He could feel it building up inside of him, and was praying it would work. He didn't even know if he was doing it right, as he'd only ever heard of it being done, and had never actually seen it happen, but it was his only chance at this moment, and he had to take it.
Sensing someone else now closing in on him, Harry opened his eyes once more, and found himself face to face with Draam, but in the very next instant, the entity vanished.
Harry stood perfectly still, having no idea what to expect as a dark fog began to fill the air around him. He began to feel drowsy, and his knees grew weak, as the murky air became thicker still. The crystals were speaking to him, but everything sounded slow…their voices were deep and slurred.
Harry had no idea what was happening, but he knew he couldn't lose his concentration…he had to finish what he'd started, it was his only way out.
Fighting to stay awake, all he could do was pray the entities wouldn't attack him at this moment, when suddenly he felt a gentle hand on his shoulder.
Looking around ever so slowly, Harry stared at the person now standing beside him, their face swimming in and out of view, as his eyelids grew heavy.
"Harry…can you hear me?" a concerned voice spoke to him, sounding very far away.
"Remus?" Harry asked, feeling beyond confused, "Is that you?"
"Yes," Remus' kind voice replied, as he stepped closer to Harry. "It's me."
"But…but I saw you…I saw you die…" Harry stammered, feeling an almost overwhelming wave of grief wash over him as his throat tightened. He knew something was wrong here, but he couldn't seem to think clearly. The fog was so dense he could barely see a foot in front of him, and the crystals' were barely at a whisper now.
"Yes, you watched me die," Remus said somberly, a somewhat accusing tone to his voice.
Harry felt the impact of his words like a punch in the stomach, unable to look up at his friend as he spoke again.
"I'm sorry," he whispered sincerely as he felt a lump rising in his throat. "If I could have done anything…"
"You're a Psion, aren't you?" Remus interrupted curtly. "You're telling me there's no magic you could have used?"
"I didn't have any control of it!" Harry explained earnestly, his voice shaking. "I would have done anything to save you!" He was slowly letting his grief overcome him, and the exhaustion was almost too much...
"You could have done anything!" Remus spat, suddenly angry. "But you didn't did you? You sat there and let me die…you didn't lift a finger to stop it. It was only when your own precious life was in danger later on that you decided to call upon your powers…I guess I wasn't important enough for you, was I?"
"No…no Remus, I didn't know how!" Harry pleaded with his friend, reaching out to him, wanting to make him understand. "I swear I didn't know…"
"It's because I bit you, isn't it?" Remus cut him off again, a dark glare in his eyes. "You decided to pay me back in your own way, didn't you?"
"No," Harry croaked, shaking his head weakly. "No that's not true…"
"Yes it is true," Remus spat viciously, stepping so close to Harry that their faces were only inches apart. "Don't lie to me Harry, you owe me that much for what you did to me."
Harry was shaking uncontrollably from grief, and could no longer look his friend in the eye. He tried to answer him, to plead with him for understanding, but no sound would come out, as tears began to trickle slowly down his face. He knew it was all his fault that Remus was dead, but if he could have done anything to stop it, even if it had meant sacrificing himself, he would have done it.
"I'm…I'm sorry…" he managed to get out in a small voice.
"You're pathetic," Remus said, glaring disgustedly at Harry. "Look at you, sniveling and begging for my forgiveness. You're not going to get it. I don't forgive you Harry…my life was cut short, and I hold you fully responsible."
Harry couldn't take it anymore. He deserved to die for what he had done to his friend. He fell to his knees and cried into his hands, wishing for it to end…wishing for it all to end.
Harry could barely think through the fog of grief surrounding him, and for a long moment, he didn't even want to. The only thought on his mind was that he didn't deserve to live for all the suffering he had caused his friend. Remus had trusted him, and Harry had let him die. There seemed to be no reason to fight anymore, it would be better if Saaneeraa took him. His friends weren't in danger, not from any of the entities at least. Saaneeraa had told him more than once that she would not harm them if she didn't have to…except…except for…
"Professor Dumbledore," Harry whispered weakly, his hands damp and sweaty from the tears. He didn't know what had made him think of the headmaster at that exact moment, but he was glad it had happened. He had to fight Saaneeraa; she would kill Dumbledore if he didn't stop her.
So get up and finish what we started! the courage crystal's voice screamed at him suddenly, startling Harry. With a sudden rush of energy, the other crystals' voices came rushing back at him as well. Harry raised his eyes slowly, to see Remus smiling down on him darkly, but something about him was different now. The fog in the air was rapidly dissipating and Harry had to blink several times to make sure what he was seeing was correct. Remus was flickering in and out of view, and each time he was gone completely, someone else took his place.
"Draam," Harry hissed darkly, recognizing who it was at last, and suddenly everything clicked into place. The fog was gone completely and Harry felt a rage building within him for what the entity had done to him, and to his friend's memory.
Saaneeraa! the focus crystal shouted hurriedly. We have to finish what we started.
Harry nodded grimly, feeling the full powers of the crystals once more; they were merging back together to complete what he had started. It felt to him as if hours had gone by since he'd been torn from Voldemort's mind, when, in fact, it couldn't have been more than a few moments.
Saaneeraa, however, had been taking full advantage of the time in which Harry was distracted by the other entities, and as he looked towards her once more, he saw her eyes glowing a blaringly bright white, just before she unleashed the force she had been building up directly at him.
Harry had no time to react as the blast slammed into him so forcefully that the wind was knocked out of him. He didn't know what Saaneeraa had just hit him with, but there was no chance it would be good.
Clutching a hand to his stomach, Harry straightened his back to face the entity head on, but he was having trouble catching his breath. It only took seconds for Harry to realize what was happening. Whatever Saaneeraa had done to him, it was slowly suffocating him.
Gritting his teeth together viciously, sweat running into his eyes; Harry refused to give up now. He didn't care if he died; he had to save Professor Dumbledore. Taking long, forced breaths as his throat tightened painfully, Harry decided it was now or never. He took a mental hold over the power the crystals' had been building up, and pushed out with his mind.
In a split second, a violet light bubbled out, forming a sphere around Harry with a floor-shaking bang, it was crackling with energy and black electrical currents could be seen streaming through it.
He lifted his gaze to stare darkly into Saaneeraa's eyes, ignoring the anguish as his lungs seared with pain, they were trying to work against the air that he was desperately forcing into them. She stared straight back at him, a smug grin on her face.
"Going somewhere?" she laughed, arrogantly. "Because I doubt a portal will help you very much right now…"
"I'm…not…going…anywhere…" Harry forced himself to say, struggling to breathe as he began to feel light-headed. There was no time left, he had to do this now. The amount of energy it had taken to create this portal had been enormous, but his strength was not spent yet. Calling out through the barrier, he sent out an invisible grip with his mind, and seized hold of an unsuspecting Saaneeraa.
Crying out in rage, the entity struggled against his grasp, and Harry had to fight to keep his hold. He had to bring her towards him…he had no other choice.
The other entities, seeing their master in trouble, began to attack him at once, but their curses had no effect on the barrier the portal had created around him. The magic used to create it was far too powerful.
Harry stepped up to the edge of the portal as he drew Saaneeraa nearer, and was about to pull her through, when he was suddenly struck by a new idea.
Feeling sick and weak from lack of oxygen, his vision beginning to blur, Harry reached a shaky hand up to the edge of the portal, and forced Saaneeraa to do the same. The other entities had abandoned their attempts at attacking him and were now working on freeing their master, but once again, Harry's magic was too strong. No matter how they tried, they could not even get close enough to touch her struggling form. Harry could see her…could feel her…trying to draw on her own powers repeatedly, only to have her attempts squashed by his hold over her.
Their hands hovered on opposite sides of the thick barrier for a fleeting second, when Harry slowly brought the tips of his fingers forward, and plunged them into the gooey, violet wall. Feeling the cool gelatinous texture of the barrier sliding smoothly against his skin, it took less than a minute for Harry to reach its edge, though to him it felt like an hour, and he was sure he would pass out if he took much longer, as black spots danced in front of his eyes. With a swift thrust, he pulled Saaneeraa's own hand towards him, ignoring her vehement swearing as her fingers made contact with the portal, and immediately after, with his hand.
What happened next was unlike anything Harry had ever experienced. He could literally feel her being, her life, draining from her body and pouring into his own. His lungs filled with air in an instant and his strength returned in full. As he looked through the portal, he could see Saaneeraa's face clearly, and it seemed to age at a most rapid pace. Her skin started to droop and sag, wrinkles setting firmly into place under her eyes, at the corners of her mouth and across her forehead. She gasped in what could only have been pain from the sudden shock of her life force being ripped away, and Harry pulled his hand back abruptly.
He didn't know why, but he just couldn't kill her. Stepping back, away from the portal wall once more, Harry tightened his invisible grasp on the now weak and quivering entity, and pulled her through the thick barrier. He released his hold on her and glared down on her small form in hatred.
"You're going back to Faerun," he said evenly, narrowing his eyes as she slowly lifted her gaze and glared up at him. "And you're never leaving again," he finished icily.
"You haven't won this, Psion," Saaneeraa spat, too weak to do anything more than stare up at him. "You should kill me while you have the chance, or I swear I will kill you…and next time, you will not be my only target."
Harry looked down at her in disgust, and shook his head slowly.
"There won't be a next time," he said coldly. Before she could utter a word in reply, Harry turned his gaze on the five remaining entities, trying in vain to break through the portal using their magic. He again sent out the wave of energy, grasping hold of the other entities and pulling them towards him. Stepping back slowly, he knew he couldn't remain inside the portal while they were there as well, for he could feel that the energy he was using to do this was taking a lot out of him and he didn't know how much longer he could hold it; certainly not through another fight. As he reached the inside wall of the portal, the struggling entities were brought to the opposite outer wall, and as Harry stepped through, sliding easily into the gooey barrier, the entities were dragged in.
Stepping out of the portal entirely, Harry turned around quickly, catching a last glimpse of Saaneeraa's weak form, surrounded by her stunned and angry servants, before the barrier began to shrink rapidly. Barely half a second passed, before the violet sphere winked out of Harry's realm of existence, on its way back to Faerun, taking all six entities with it.
Letting out a long, shaky breath, Harry could feel all the power and energy he'd harnessed, to create the portal, fading. He sunk to the floor, unsteadily, his mind still trying to process all that had just happened. He had no idea how he'd been able to come out of this alive…but at the end, he'd felt next to invincible, despite the weakness he was feeling now. The entities, in all their power, hadn't been able to lift a finger against his magic…
He was quickly shaken from his thoughts, however, when the room he was in suddenly grew blindingly bright, and he had to shut his eyes against the glare. Despite the fact that he could no longer see his surroundings, he had a sickening impression that everything was spinning, and his head began to pound from the dizziness. Harry choked down the sickness in his throat, raising a hand to his temple, and trying to block out the stomach-turning sensation, when suddenly the movement stopped…and the lights began to dim…
Blinking slowly, Harry's eyes gradually regained their focus, and he was slightly surprised to see he was sitting on the floor in one of the rooms behind Dumbledore's office.
What happened? he asked, glimpsing the crystals' mist hanging in the air around him as he pushed himself up, beginning to stand. Before they could reply, however, a familiar voice spoke to him.
"That was quite impressive, what you did."
Spinning around abruptly, Harry's eyes fell on one of the beds in the room, to see Dumbledore sitting on the edge of it. He looked very tired and worn, but his eyes were warm, and had that familiar twinkle to them that Harry loved to see.
"Professor Dumbledore!" he cried happily, crossing to the headmaster as he spoke. "Are you alright? I thought Saaneeraa had…"
"I'm fine, Harry, I'm fine," Dumbledore smiled kindly. "Thanks to you."
"Thanks to me?" Harry asked, his brow furrowing in confusion. "But…what did I do?"
"There will be time for that later," Dumbledore replied with a grin. "Now, where are the others?"
Harry's heart suddenly skipped a beat in his chest as he inhaled sharply.
"I have to go!" he cried, trying not to panic. "I left them downstairs…the dementors…Voldemort!" Without waiting for any reply, Harry had crossed the room in half a second, and flew through the headmaster's office to the door on the opposite side. He paid no attention to the bodies of the Fleshcrawlers still scattered about, and absolutely refused to turn his head, to where he knew Remus would still be…keeping his eyes firmly in front of him, he descended the stairway quickly and began running as fast as he could through the halls.
He reached the great hall moments later, skidding to a stop in front of the large double doors, before jamming his shoulder into them in an effort to open them quickly, and racing inside. He was quite astonished, however, at the site that met his eyes.
There was absolutely no sign of the dementors…Harry couldn't even feel their presence any more. The death eaters had been rounded up by his friends, and brought to a corner of the room where most of them were still lying, unconscious. The few that were awake seemed to be dazed, and Harry imagined that none of them would still have their wands on them. Nevertheless, Snape and Draco were standing guard over the potentially dangerous men, while the others were several feet away, near a particular spot on the back wall, which Harry was sure must be where he had been pulled through a short while earlier. Sirius and Marzia seemed to be trying some sort of spell on the wall, while Ron, Hermione, Ginny and Mel looked on, anxiously.
Harry took all of this in in a matter of seconds however, before turning his attention to where he had last seen Voldemort. All that was there was a dark, black cloak, lying deathly still in the center of the room. Starting forward, Harry stalked silently across the great hall, stopping only inches from the cloak, before lowering himself down beside it. He glanced up at his friends once more, to see that they were still preoccupied with what they were all doing. None of them had yet noticed his presence. He quickly returned his apprehensive gaze to the cloak, and held out a hesitant hand, before reaching down slowly.
As he grasped hold of the sleek, black material, Harry let out a long breath, which he hadn't even realized he'd been holding, before roughly pulling the fabric away.
Harry felt his jaw drop in that instant, not understanding what his eyes were seeing. He was dimly aware of the voices nearby, and some part of his mind recognized that his friends had spotted him at last, but he did not look up as they came to his side. His eyes were glued to the floor in front of him. The very empty floor in front of him.
Lord Voldemort was gone.
"Harry you're alright!"
"We saw you disappear through the wall!"
"How did you escape?"
"What happened to you?"
"Are you alright?"
Harry was hearing all of his friends' questions rushing at him in their anxiety, but he could only stare at the empty floor in front of him.
"Where is he?" he whispered at last as his friends realized something was bothering him and began to quiet down. "Where is Voldemort?"
"I checked him as soon as the barrier disappeared," Sirius spoke up immediately, kneeling down beside his godson. "He was gone already…I don't know what happened."
"But…but he couldn't have just gotten away!" Harry cried suddenly, glancing randomly around the room as if expecting to find Voldemort hiding in some dark corner, waiting to attack. "He couldn't have apparated out of Hogwarts…and if you checked him as quickly as you say you did…he wouldn't have had time to run for the door, right?" Harry looked up at his godfather, dread settling firmly in his stomach as the older man shook his head slowly.
"I'm sorry Harry…" he spoke softly, "I don't have any explanation for you. But you're right in that he had no way to escape without someone seeing him…even if it was only for a moment."
"Or no way to escape that we know of, at least," Marzia added grimly.
Harry sighed inaudibly and shook his head. He couldn't believe it…his chance to finish this seemingly never-ending battle…and now it was passed.
"Maybe…maybe he's dead?" Ginny suggested hopefully as Harry and Sirius stood and faced the others.
"No," Harry shook his head. "I know he isn't dead…"
"You seem very…confident of that," Hermione stated, looking curiously at him.
"I am," Harry nodded grimly. "I don't know how…I just…am."
"I don't care about Voldemort right now," Sirius spoke up gently, resting a firm hand on his godson's shoulder. "All that matters to me is that you're alright…" he trailed off for a brief moment, staring intently into Harry's eyes. "I was so scared that you might be…" he barely whispered, unable to finish the statement, his voice thick with emotion.
Harry could feel his throat tighten upon hearing Sirius' words, and let his godfather pull him forward in a protective embrace. He still hadn't let the full weight of the day's events sink in, and for the time being, still refused to do so, but he welcomed the warmth of his godfather at that moment, he needed it.
As the two pulled back once more, Harry smiled up at Sirius, before turning his gaze on the rest of his friends, just as Ron began to speak.
"What happened then, Harry?" he asked, uncertainly. "We all saw Voldemort pull you away…and you were both very still for a long while…and then something else happened and it looked like you were being forced into that wall over there…" he trailed off gesturing to the spot where Saaneeraa had pulled Harry through…through the wall…and somehow…into Dumbledore's mind.
"Dumbledore," Harry spoke suddenly, remembering the headmaster. "I left him upstairs…"
"What do you mean?" Marzia asked. "He's been up there…we couldn't wake him…"
"No, he's awake," Harry assured her hurriedly. "But I didn't talk to him because…"
"What? How?" Sirius asked, surprised.
"I'm…I'm not sure how," Harry admitted. "But I just left him up there because I thought you all were in trouble…" he trailed off, for a brief second before continuing. "What happened to the dementors anyway? It looked like there were so many of them…"
"We were barely holding them back," Marzia replied quietly. "And it didn't look like we were going to hold them for long…"
"There were just too many of them," Sirius added. "Snape, and I were using the Patronus charm, but it was Marzia who was able to do the most damage…"
"Did you use the smoke again?" Harry interrupted, looking towards her.
"Yes," she replied with a nod.
"But…I thought that killed them," Harry said, confused. "Where…where are the bodies?"
Sirius and Marzia exchanged grim looks, before turning back to face Harry.
"We don't know," Sirius spoke quietly. "Everything seemed to stop when we heard someone screaming…such a horrible, tortured screaming. We saw Voldemort crumple to the floor in pain, and in the next second the dementors, both dead and alive…were gone."
"But…that makes no sense…" Harry muttered, trying to come up with some way that this would be possible, and arriving at no conclusion.
"It doesn't matter now, though…right? You're alive…" Mel spoke up at last, and Harry could see her hanging back from the others the slightest bit. The sight of her made him smile warmly and he immediately stepped forward towards her. She smiled in relief as he took her into a firm embrace, and he could feel her shaking with exhaustion beneath his grasp. Mel wasn't used to the excitement in the way his other friends were, and Harry felt horrible that she'd been dragged into this.
He lifted his gaze slightly, as he felt a soft hand brush his shoulder, to find Ginny standing next to him, smiling thinly. Without any hesitation, Harry reached out with one arm, wrapping Ginny into the hug as well. Ron and Hermione joined the embrace an instant later, and the five of them stood there silently, holding each other, glad to be alive after all that had happened.
Harry didn't know how long they stood there, but when they finally separated, he looked up to see Sirius, Snape and Draco on their way back from across the room. Marzia was doing something near the jumble of death eaters, and seconds later; they were surrounded by a deep crimson barrier. She quickly stepped away, a smug look on her face and followed the others across the room.
"They won't be getting out of there anytime soon," she nodded at Sirius confidently.
"Good, because I don't want any of them escaping," Sirius replied, looking darkly at the shield, and the men held within it. "C'mon," he continued, turning back to face the others. "Let's head upstairs…I want to hear about what happened, Harry…and I want to speak with Dumbledore."
On the way back up to the headmaster's office, Harry retold, as best he could remember, all that had happened since he'd begun his battle with Voldemort. He explained his attempt to look for any way to defeat the dark lord by literally searching his mind for it, and how he was pulled away from Voldemort's psyche by Saaneeraa. After going through how the memory crystal had suggested he use the portal, as he had no idea how to physically defeat the entities, and explaining what he had done to regain some of his strength before finally getting rid of all six entities, they had nearly reached the office.
Sirius was the first to make any response, having several choice words for Draam and how he had used Remus' form to mentally attack Harry, but Marzia put a gentle hand on his arm, silencing him. It would do no good to go any further into what had happened with Remus at this time, as she could see how much it pained Harry just to think about it.
The small group reached the stone gargoyle and ascended the stairs silently, stepping one by one into the headmaster's office. Harry was quite surprised to see the office in much better shape than it had been just a short while earlier. The Fleshcrawlers were gone…and so was Remus. Before anyone could utter a word, however, the door to the back quarters opened slowly, and Dumbledore stepped out into the office, looking calmly at the small group.
"I thought I would be seeing all of you soon," he spoke warmly as he stepped further into the room, smiling at them. "Now why don't you all take a seat…you look positively exhausted."
The seven of them moved towards the chairs obligingly, glad to rest their feet after the long, tiresome day.
"I don't mean for this to sound wrong," Sirius spoke up first once they were all sitting comfortably, "but how is it, Albus, that you are awake?"
Dumbledore chuckled lightly at the question and met Sirius' curious gaze.
"Mr. Potter, is to thank for that," he smiled.
"He told us what happened," Marzia said quickly. "What the entities did…does that have anything to do with this?"
"It has everything to do with it," Dumbledore replied with a nod. "Saaneeraa was only able to keep me unconscious by leaving part of her own aura inside of me…in my mind. I was aware of her presence at all times, but was not strong enough to evict her psyche from my own. A short time ago, I felt a change in her state, and suddenly I could feel the full weight of her presence in my mind. While I could do nothing to prevent her plans, I knew what she was going to do, because her thoughts became my own. When Harry was brought in as well, I was aware of his presence immediately, even though I could not make any contact with him. When he was able to vanquish the entities at last, the force that was holding him inside of me dissipated, and he was forced to withdraw from my mind. As Saaneeraa was no longer present in any form, there was nothing left keeping me in an unconscious state, and I was able to awaken easily."
"So…you heard everything, then?" Harry asked, lowering his gaze and thinking of Remus.
"Yes," Dumbledore replied quietly. "Including what happened to Remus, though I am sure it did not happen in the way that Draam tried to make you believe it did."
"It didn't," Sirius spoke up suddenly, looking intently at his godson, who nodded slowly.
"No…I know he was lying to me," Harry said quickly, not entirely able to shake the guilt from his conscience, but knowing what happened was not his fault. "I don't know why I was suddenly able to stop him though…I couldn't even think straight…" he trailed off, looking up at Dumbledore curiously. "I thought of you though…that's when I was finally able to push his illusion away…you helped me, didn't you?"
"As best I could," Dumbledore nodded grimly. "I could feel all of the pain you were experiencing quite clearly, and I did everything in my power to stop Draam from continuing his torment. I may not have been able to do much, but I still had some control over my own mind," the headmaster smiled, wryly.
"Where is Remus now?" Harry asked quietly.
"I brought his body into one of the back rooms," Dumbledore replied solemnly.
Harry nodded stiffly, once again not letting himself think too hard on his friend's death.
"I know there is more to what happened today than what you've already told me," Dumbledore continued on evenly. "And if you feel you are up to it, I would ask that you please explain to me all that has happened today…"
For what felt like hours, Harry and the others took turns explaining all that had happened. He began with his vision about Mel early that morning, moving quickly through what had happened in the forest, and speaking with both Tytros and Xondis in the Zlam's new lair. Hurrying along, he told of how he and Neville were tricked by the shapeshifter, and Lucius locking both he and Remus in a cell. He didn't spend a great deal of time on what happened in the dungeon, but stopped as Dumbledore held up a hand.
"The injuries on your leg and arm…" he spoke quickly, "those were both done while Remus was a werewolf?"
Harry nodded faintly, having barely felt the pain from the wounds for a while now.
"So you have been infected…" he said, his brow furrowed in thought.
"He didn't do it on purpose," Harry said quietly. "And he wants me to…to look for a cure…using the crystals," he paused, glancing at Snape. "He asked me to ask you for help…"
Snape merely stared back at Harry stiffly, as Dumbledore spoke again.
"Oh I am quite aware that he had no control over his actions," he said sincerely. "Remus would have died before knowingly bringing any harm upon you, Harry. I am most certain of that," he stated confidently, before turning his gaze on Snape. "Severus, do you think there is anything that can be done? You are aware of your role in all of this, I assume?"
Snape nodded stiffly before replying.
"Yes, I've been aware for months now. Though I was unable to tell anyone as they had me under some sort of hold. I knew you were all working to break it, but nothing worked until earlier today…" he paused for a moment, collecting his thoughts. "As for the bite…I don't know that there's anything to be done…to my knowledge, no Psion has ever been infected with the curse of the werewolf…"
"Then we will have to use the wolfsbane potion, for the time being," Dumbledore replied gravely, before looking once again at Harry and nodding softly.
"I'm sorry for interrupting, please…continue."
Harry returned the nod, glad to stop discussing about what had happened in the dungeon, and started on the talk he'd had with Saaneeraa, just before telling how Marzia had found him. Harry paused there, letting Marzia explain how she had been spying on Voldemort and his followers for quite some time then, and had found her way into the school through the secret passage only after following a group of death eaters in. Apparently the walls to that passageway led straight through to the outside of the school, and any intruders had been using it to sneak in all year long. That also explained why so many of them had been found in the dungeons, as that's where the path began.
"How would they all know about it though?" Hermione asked.
"Wormtail," Harry replied immediately, remembering his first trip through the passage with the map. "When Peter's memory spoke to me through the Marauder's Map…when I went looking for Professor Snape, he told me he used to spend much of his time down that passage. He must have been the one to tell the others about it…before he died…" It was only then that Harry realized he hadn't seen Wormtail's ghost ever since he had performed the soul switch with Voldemort. He'd managed to escape yet again.
Harry could tell by the expressions on his friends' faces that they'd come to the exact same realization, but there was nothing that could be done of it now…and they continued with the explanation.
Not wanting to think about it any longer than he had to, Harry talked as quickly as he could, his throat dry and scratchy, explaining the events that led up to Remus' death, and all that had happened since then. He told the others how Snape had helped him with the crystals just in time for him to perform the soul switch, and only stopped speaking when he reached the point where Voldemort stood up, after seeming dead to anyone around him.
"My scar didn't hurt," Harry said suddenly. "I don't know why…
"Have you felt anything at all from your scar since you realized Voldemort was still alive?" Dumbledore asked.
"Nothing," Harry replied evenly. "No pain or burning…nothing."
"Interesting," the headmaster mused, stroking his chin thoughtfully. "I can only assume it has something to do with the spell you performed, enabling you to switch places with him for those few moments."
"Do you think it's stopped for good then?" Harry asked. "Will I ever be able to sense him with it again?"
"I honestly do not have an answer for you," Dumbledore replied, shaking his head faintly. "I truly hope we never have to find out…"
Harry nodded his sincere agreement, before throwing himself back into the task of explaining the end of the day's events. He told of his failure to find anything that he could believe to be of use in defeating Voldemort while occupying his mind, and as he finished that particular explanation for the second time that day, he came to a relieved stop, sitting back against the chair and taking a deep breath. His friends and the headmaster both knew of all that had happened in his battle against the entities, and so there was no need to go through that explanation again.
It had been the longest day of his life, and all Harry wanted now, was for it to be over.
"Thank you, Harry," Dumbledore said firmly. "I will not ask any more of you tonight as you are in great need of rest and medical attention. Since you've told me the hospital wing is in no fit state to hold any patients, I am going to ask that you remain here, and use the rooms in the back once more. Madam Pomfrey was in Gryffindor tower, yes?" he asked, looking up at Sirius, who nodded once in reply. Ron, Hermione and Ginny had briefly explained that Voldemort had sent his death eaters to come for them, to use against Harry should he need to, and Sirius had asked Madam Pomfrey to remain there along with McGonagall, to look after and tend to the students that had been injured in the attack.
"Very well then," Dumbledore nodded. "I shall go there first, to ask that she pay you all a visit."
"What are we going to do about the death eaters?" Harry asked. "And the ministry…they're all still trapped…and what about…?"
"Harry, don't worry yourself about anything else right now," Dumbledore interrupted gently. "Please do as I ask, go into the back rooms and make yourself comfortable. You are in desperate need of rest and I don't want you putting any further strain on yourself at this time."
Harry nodded weakly, and didn't try to argue any further. He said goodnight to both Sirius and Marzia, who were going to stay with Dumbledore and help him with all that now needed to be done, before he and the other students made their way to the back. They passed through the first room and Harry could see the Chang's limp forms lying stiffly on two of the beds, while a third bed he could see, had someone laying underneath a crisp white sheet. He knew without a doubt, it was Remus, and looked away quickly, as he led the way into the next room.
When they reached one of the larger sleeping quarters, with enough beds that all six of them could stay in the same room, Harry made his way across to the bed in the back corner. There was very little conversation as the students took turns changing into nightclothes, and they each climbed into a bed, silently.
They speculated for a few moments on what Dumbledore would do for the remainder of the school year, not knowing if classes would be able to continue at this point, when their conversation was interrupted by the door opening slowly.
Madam Pomfrey strode purposefully into the room, a grim expression on her face as she headed towards Harry first. She had a small red bag with her that Harry soon realized must have been enchanted, as she was able to pull a great many medicines and potions out of it, far more than should have been able to fit in such a small bag. After going over his wounds carefully and rubbing a deep green gel into them, she handed him a potion, instructing him to drink it all. Harry recognized the contents of the bottle instantly to be the sleeping potion he'd taken on so many occasions, and gratefully downed the liquid in two large gulps. He felt the medicine take effect almost immediately, and his eyelids grew heavy. He barely felt it as Madam Pomfrey reached out gently, removing his glasses from his face and setting them on the bedside table, as he drifted off into a dreamless sleep.
When next he awoke, a soft breeze was brushing gently against his face and Harry opened his eyes to see the sun shining softly through the window just beside his bed. He sat up slowly, taking his glasses from the bedside table and slipping them on quickly, before pushing the covers back and sliding out of bed.
Harry looked up sharply; not realizing anyone else had been awake as well, only to find Mel smiling back at him.
"Good morning," he replied quietly, not wanting to disturb the others' rest. "How long have you been up?"
"Only a few minutes," she replied softly. "Those sleeping potions work rather well…I've never had to take one before.
Harry laughed gently, thinking only that there had not even been one year in which he'd attended school at Hogwarts that he hadn't had to take one of Madam Pomfrey's sleeping potions.
"So," Mel continued, sliding out of her bed as well and quietly crossing to where Harry stood. "Are you…are you alright?" she asked hesitantly, her arms crossed over her chest as she shivered slightly. He could see the breeze was a bit chilly for her and wrapped one of his arms around her for warmth, drawing her closer to him.
"I'll be fine," he replied gently, leaning his chin against her soft hair. "I'm always fine…"
"No," Mel said evenly, pulling her head back and looking up at him. "You're not always fine…" she trailed off, searching his eyes for a brief moment before continuing. "But you will be…I know you will be."
He smiled back at her warmly, wishing everything in his life could make him feel as he did in this moment, before leaning his head down and kissing her gently. Mel kissed him back, and he felt her hand slip up around his neck as he deepened the kiss passionately. This was all he cared about right now. He loved Mel…and he knew he'd felt this way for a long time, since before Cho had died even. The truth was, he had loved Cho as well, and she had been the first person in his life for whom he'd harbored any romantic feelings. But despite loving her deeply, he had not been in love with her. With Mel, there was no doubt in his mind, simply being in her company put a smile on his face. His relationship with her was so completely different from what he'd had with Cho, but he didn't think he could find the words to explain it if he were asked to. It wasn't just a feeling or phase; he knew deep down in his soul, he was completely in love with Mel.
Harry pulled away from Mel only when he'd heard the sounds of movement in the room, and realized the others were starting to wake as well. It seemed the sleeping potion lasted just about the same amount of time for everyone. He smiled down at Mel once more, giving her one more brief kiss, before she turned and started back towards her bed. They all needed to get changed, and then they needed to find Dumbledore to see what was going on.
Classes, they were told, would be resuming in two weeks time. The summer holidays would be starting later as a result of this, but there was no other choice. There were certain things that needed to be taken care of before school could resume its normal schedule.
Dumbledore had left early that morning, taking Snape and Sirius with him, leaving Marzia and McGonagall to watch over the school. They had intended to head straight for Azkaban, to see what had to be done in order to free the imprisoned ministry members, only to find they had already been released. From what Harry was later told, they were being held in their cells with no guards, as Voldemort had kept all of his followers with him, and were visited every so often by men who would always keep their faces hidden, that would drop off food and leave. Then suddenly that morning, when they'd awoken, the bars had been unlocked, and the ministers didn't ask any questions. They simply left, filing out of their cells as quickly as possible, and leaving the horrible prison…hopefully forever.
The captured death eaters, Lucius Malfoy included, were taken away from Hogwarts immediately, though Harry and the others were not told where to, only that their crimes would not be taken lightly.
Dumbledore left the ministers to get their own affairs back in order, having his own set of problems to deal with at the school. He assured Harry he would be checking on the ministry again, as soon as things settled down at Hogwarts.
The first order of business, was for Snape to wake the Changs, and having been told from Harry that a phoenix feather was the only way to battle the smoke, it was easy for the potions master to brew a suitable remedy. Both Carol and Russell were quite upset and strained over what had been done to them, but after a long discussion with Dumbledore, in which everything they needed to be told was explained to them, they were placated enough to deal with the headmaster in a civil manner.
The hospital wing was quickly restored to its former state, and Madam Pomfrey sent Marzia out to restock the ingredients that had been damaged beyond repair. Though there was little need for medical attention at this point, as no one in the school was doing much of anything. The students were allowed to do as they'd done all year, stay out of any restricted areas and make sure to be in their common rooms by curfew.
The worst for Harry, however, came when they had to deal with the tragic deaths of three people he'd cared for greatly. He'd never in his life been to a wizard's cemetery, and was not surprised to find it was exactly the same as a muggle one. The only difference was the dirt was lifted using magic, instead of manually shoveling it.
The first funeral he attended was Cho's. Ron, Hermione and Ginny came to pay their respect as well, and Harry was only grateful that the Changs had allowed him to come. They had been so adamant about making certain he was not present at their daughter's funeral, that Harry had honestly expected they would not sway in their decision. But after Dumbledore spoke to them, they graciously apologized for the behavior and said he could come if he so chose to. The service was quite long, and Harry felt a great swelling of sadness as he listened to Cho's parents talk about their only daughter, but he did not cry. He'd cried all he'd had in him for Cho the night he'd found her in his bed, but he knew he would never forget her, she was his first love.
Neville's service was much shorter as his only surviving family was his grandmother. She wept openly on Harry's shoulder, saying how Neville had always talked about him and what a good friend he'd been to him at school, and Harry comforted her all he could. He couldn't help but feel guilty for Neville's passing, knowing that if it hadn't been for him he'd be alive and well…still messing up on his charms, and excelling in herbology. But he also knew he couldn't change what had happened, and all he could do was try to accept it, and move on.
The worst by far, however, was the service held for Remus, and more than half the students at Hogwarts attended. Harry stood with his friends on his left, and Mel, Sirius and Marzia on his right. Dumbledore spoke at great length about Remus, telling stories about him from his youth and days at Hogwarts, all they way through to the noble man he'd become, overcoming certain obstacles and staying loyal to his friends no matter what. Near the end of it all, Harry was overwhelmed with thick emotion, and could not stop from crying, Sirius was much the same and the two of them wept silently for the tragic loss of their friend, who had been taken from them much sooner than anyone had been prepared for.
After what felt like the longest and hardest week of his life, Harry felt a sort of calm settle over him. The people he'd lost had been laid to rest, and all that was left was to move on with life.
Classes resumed, as promised, two weeks after the longest day of Harry's life. Dumbledore took over the Defense Against the Dark Arts Classes, while Snape resumed his lessons as potions master.
Everything settled back into a somewhat normal flow, but no one could possibly forget what had happened. The great hall, which had also been repaired after the attack on the school, had been draped in black banners, much the same as it was after Cedric died. Dumbledore insisted they be left up for the two weeks that class was not in session, but would leave them up no longer after that time. It was good to be reminded of what had happened, but unhealthy to be surrounded by thoughts of death and tragedy for a great length of time. So once classes had resumed, there was simply a moment of silence before each mealtime, in remembrance to those that had lost their lives.
When at last the inevitable came around, the first full moon after Harry having been bitten, Dumbledore insisted he take the wolfsbane potion. He didn't want to chance anything else at this time until they could find out more, and all he wanted right now, was for Harry to have as close to a normal life as possible. He'd asked him to stop using the crystals, which were safely locked up in their trunk, at least until school was complete, and he didn't want Harry to experience the pain of a transformation just yet. So for the three nights of the full moon, Harry made his way down to Snape's office each evening, and obediently drank the potion that would halt the transformation. It never left him with a pleasant feeling, and he would spend each night tossing and turning, his stomach twisting in such a way Harry spent hours feeling he would be sick. But he never was, and each morning he was back to normal, as if nothing had ever happened. He would go along with Dumbledore's wishes for now, but when school was over, he intended to use them as Remus had asked. He would find a cure for the curse of the werewolf.
After seven long, wonderful, terrifying and awe-inspiring years at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry could hardly believe it when the last day of classes finally came. He barely realized how quickly time was passing until it was over. Even the N.E.W.T.'s, which Ron had been stressing about non-stop for the last week or so, seemed to fly effortlessly by, and the night finally arrived…the last night he would spend in the Gryffindor tower, in his four-poster bed.
He had spent most of the day, surprisingly, by himself, wandering the halls aimlessly and remembering everything he'd done within these walls since his first day as a student. As it grew later, and he made his way down to dinner, he joined his friends at the Gryffindor table for the last time.
"I can't believe it's really over," Ron said slowly. "We're never going to be students again…"
"Well, I am," Hermione said with a smirk.
"What?" Harry laughed, "You of all people couldn't have failed anything so badly that you'd be left back…"
"We didn't get our result from the N.E.W.T.'s back yet, you never know," Ron said with a smug grin.
"Oh stop it," Hermione rolled her eyes. "I just mean I'm going to continue with schooling…"
"What for?" Harry asked. "And where?"
"There's a university in Wizarding London," Hermione replied. "And I would really like to learn more…specialized skills…"
"Specialized as in what?" Harry asked, curiously.
"Not sure yet," Hermione shrugged with a small grin…I guess I'll figure it out as I go…"
Harry laughed inwardly, thinking he should've guessed that Hermione would of course want to continue on with school, in any form she could find it in. Shaking his head and smiling, he looked up at Ron.
"What about you? Got any plans after you leave here?"
"Not a bloody clue," Ron smiled back widely. "Not to worry though," he added quickly, "I'm sure I'll figure something out over the summer."
"Or your mum will figure something out for you," Harry joked.
"Oh no, not a chance," Ron replied, shaking his head quickly and cringing at the thought. "Alright then, what about you Harry? What are you doing after this?"
"I have…no idea," Harry admitted with a shrug. "We didn't get to finish quidditch this season, not that I'm complaining this time…I don't think I would've been into it if we had. But Sirius said he might look into talking to a few of the managers for the professional teams…maybe set up an interview…who knows. It's all very up in the air right now."
"That'd be so wicked!" Ron exclaimed happily. "Can you imagine? Playing for a real quidditch team…professionally! I bet the Cannons would take you easy…"
"Oh no you don't Weasley," Harry laughed into his milk, setting the glass down and wiping his sleeve against his lips before continuing. "If I do this…it'll be for a real quidditch team…not the Chudley Cannons."
"Hey!" Ron exclaimed indignantly. "The Chudley Cannons are so a real quidditch team! They're just in somewhat of…of a rut…right now…" he trailed off, looking glumly at his plate. Harry could only shake his head and laugh, as he exchanged a knowing look with Hermione. She had to deal with Ron's going on about the Cannons just as often as Harry did, and could feel his pain.
"Harry, could I talk to you for a moment?"
Harry turned around to see Mel coming up behind him and he stood up immediately.
"Yes…definitely," he replied with a smile. "I was actually going to come look for you right after I finished eating…"
"Oh, I'll let you eat then," she said quickly.
"No, no…don't worry." Harry said with a casual wave of his hand. "I'm very much finished. Want to go for a walk?"
Mel nodded, and with a quick wave at Ron and Hermione, the two of them set off into the halls.
"I'm going to live with Jack tomorrow," Mel began gently. "I'm gonna take care of him…until…well until he doesn't need it anymore…" she said quickly.
"That's probably a good idea," Harry nodded. "Then you'll get to spend as much time with him as possible."
"Exactly," Mel said, grinning faintly. "I wanted to ask you a question though…"
"Anything," Harry replied quickly, looking sincerely down at her.
"Would you…would you consider, coming to visit? Even if it's just for a day. I would really like Jack to meet you…"
"I'd be honored," Harry replied, smiling softly at her. "Just tell me when and I'll be on my way."
"Thank you," Mel replied, a relieved smile on her face as the two of them came to a slow halt. She leant up towards him as he bent down and they kissed softly. The two of them continued their walk, and talked for a long while about their memories during their years at school, and the fun things they'd done. But time flew by all too quickly for Harry, and soon enough he was kissing Mel goodnight, leaving her at the entrance to her dorm with the promise of sending her an owl as soon as he got home the next day.
The following morning, Harry could hardly believe the day had finally arrived, as he packed up his things and headed up to the headmaster's office. He had to say goodbye to Ron, Hermione and Ginny in the common room, promising them he'd visit over the summer, as he wasn't taking the Hogwart's express home. He, Sirius and Marzia were going back to their home together.
As Harry reached the headmaster's office, he met his godfather at the gargoyle, and together they lugged all their heavy things up the long, winding stairway. Dumbledore, Harry was somewhat sad to find out, was not there. The ministry had contacted him on urgent business, and now that he didn't have to worry about classes running in session, he had left at his earliest convenience. Sirius assured Harry, however, that the headmaster would definitely be in touch over the summer.
The three of them pulled all of their belongings over to the great stone fireplace, and began piling their trunks just in front of it. One at a time, they each took turns throwing in some floo powder, piling in several belongings and being whisked off into the green flames. Marzia went first, smiling brightly at the others before calling out her destination and disappearing in a swirl of colors. Sirius stepped up next; he tossed in his handful, and quickly tossed in several bags, muttering something about women and packing, before glancing up at Harry and winking.
"See you in a minute."
Harry smiled back, watching as his godfather did the same as Marzia, and vanished in the green flames.
He sighed softly, looking at the flames for a long moment, before finally taking his own handful of floo powder and tossing it in. He pushed his two trunks forward quickly, and took one last longing glance around the office he'd come to know so well, before stepping fully into the flames, and calling out one word.
He felt the familiar tugging as he was lifted into the swirl of colors and brightness, on his way to his destination, where his family was waiting for him.