By the way, the idea of a "channel" belongs to Mercedes Lackey in her "Heralds of Valdemar" series. Read them sometime.
Also, the "Death Snacker" comes from Aibhinn's story, "Heal The Pain", which is conveniently located at Gryffindor Tower. I'm borrowing it temporarily. I promised I'd have it back to her by the end of the week. Read her fic, too. If you like mine, hers'll blow you away. Another thing that I borrowed for the Weasley twins was the "Moldiemort" idea from Anya's "Naked Quidditch Match"… which is dead friggin' brill.
Chapter 30: Tested In Fire
After they had all left his office, Dumbledore sat down to reflect on what was about to happen. Shortly, he would give over the last of his energy, and he would die. Death was, to his mind, the supreme adventure. He had a feeling all the rules would change and that new challenges, new things to learn would await him in whatever came next.
Time had been his enemy these past few years. Trying to teach his students everything that they would need to know to survive without him over the past year had been extremely difficult, but he had watched as they had matured into something more than they had been.
Harry Potter had been an orphan boy with knobby knees and broken glasses when he'd arrived at Hogwarts. Now he was a confident young man, on his way to being an extremely powerful wizard.
Hermione Granger had been a busy know-it-all when she'd first come to Dumbledore's school, and now she was a brilliant young woman with love and strength in her eyes. Her young man would need that.
Ron Weasley had never really felt like his own person, having been defined by his older brothers for most of his life. Now, Dumbledore thought with a smile, he hadn't exactly worked out who he was, but he was on the right track. The strength it would take to get over his injuries was something that Ron would have to find from somewhere deep within himself, Dumbledore knew. But he also had confidence that Ron would find it.
Draco Malfoy had been an arrogant, conceited, spoiled child who had only wanted the love of his father. Now he was gone from Hogwarts, and Dumbledore felt like he had almost failed. There was still hope for Draco, if only someone could get to him. He wasn't evil yet.
From his perch, Fawkes trilled. Dumbledore sighed.
"I know. It's almost time."
The bird made another comforting noise.
"It's harder to let go than I thought. So many people…" His voice trailed off. "I remember once, when Lily Evans's parents passed, she asked me if I thought she would ever see them again."
Fawkes cocked his head.
"I said yes, of course. Now, I hope I get to see them. All of them."
"I failed with Tom, too."
This time, Fawkes made a disapproving sound.
Dumbledore nodded. "All right, no more of that. I should write to Minerva, leave a list of things to be done."
Fawkes shook his head.
"I guess now is as good a time as ever for her to take over. She's been doing her job for a good many years, and lately, parts of mine. She probably doesn't need a list."
"Well, there's one more thing I must get done."
With that, Dumbledore sat in his chair and pulled out a quill. Though his fingers sometimes shook now, and his eyes weren't what they once were, he could still leave something important behind, for all of them. Thoughtfully, he chewed the end and began to scratch out a note.
The small group made good time getting to the Shrieking Shack, and none of them talked. Each one of them was lost in his own world.
Harry and Ginny were walking hand in hand, trying to be discreet about it, but needing the physical contact.
Walking next to them, Ron and Hermione made no effort to hide their love for each other, as they had both temporarily forgotten they were fighting with each other. They walked arm in arm, much like Mr. and Mrs. Weasley.
Remus and Anna shared affectionate kisses every now and again, and every time they did, Sirius would roll his eyes.
Finally, they arrived at their destination, and everyone took a deep breath.
Remus shuddered a little before entering the house of his youthful horror, but Anna held tightly to his hand.
"Come on, let's be quick about this," Fred said finally, and they all entered.
"First things first," George said, "we've got to set this up just right."
"Do you need help?" Remus asked, from where he stood with his arm around Anna's waist.
"No." They both said it at the same time, then turned to grin at each other.
"We've got this one worked out," Fred said.
"Down to perfection," George agreed.
"We'll stay out of your way, then," Harry said.
Remus and Sirius leaned over, watched the boys work.
"Well," Sirius said and heaved a sigh, "they're almost as good as we were."
Remus grinned. "Almost."
"If you two don't mind," Fred said as he grunted and cut a piece of paper of the lump they were stirring with a fork, "we'd like a relative amount of silence while we work on our masterpiece, if you will."
Remus and Sirius exchanged glances.
"Where does this need for silence come from?" Remus asked. "It certainly never happened in my classroom."
"Yes, well, we don't need it anymore. Done," George announced proudly.
Ron and Hermione stopped talking and walked over.
"What," Hermione began, "is that?"
"It looks like a lump of… well, brown stuff," Ron said when Hermione narrowed her eyes at him.
"Exactly," George said.
"That way," Fred informed them, "no one messes with it, and no one gets hurt accidentally."
"This is," George said importantly, "a Death Snacker Lump."
"A Death Snacker Lump?" Anna's voice was disbelieving. "You've got to be kidding me. That's not even funny."
Ginny was snickering, but stopped when Anna looked at her.
"Honestly," she said, mimicking Hermione on purpose, "what will Mum think?"
"I don't know. Let's ask her," Harry suggested.
Molly Weasley just covered her eyes.
"What does it do?" Hermione demanded, ignoring everyone else.
"Well," Fred said with a hint of a grin, "it does something like this."
There was a loud BOOM as the twins whispered a spell that no one could hear and the lump exploded. Nothing happened for a moment, then the group oohed and ahhed.
"Brilliant," Ginny whispered.
Harry doubled over in laughter. He supposed hysteria and nerves might have something to do with it, but it really was amusing.
Remus and Sirius shook their heads.
"Really…" Molly whispered.
The Weasley twins had sent up a firework that left a lasting image above the Shrieking Shack, one that sort of resembled the Dark Mark. Only this one had bright gold letters written across it that said, "Moldiemort was here."
"What did you have that lying around for?" Hermione wanted to know.
Fred shrugged. "You never know."
George smiled. "You know what they say, always be prepared."
Ginny rolled her eyes. "Honestly, you two took it to the extreme this time."
Harry didn't make a comment. His eyes had gone away, to a place that no one seemed to be able to follow him to. Just as Ginny worked out what was happening, Harry told everyone.
"Voldemort's here, and he's not alone."
Everything seemed to happen very quickly. Ron, Hermione, the rest of the Weasleys, and the professors arranged themselves around Harry, Ginny, and Neville in a protective circle.
Finding Ginny's hand in his own, Harry glanced down at her with something like surprise in his eyes.
"We're doing this together," she whispered to him. "Really together."
Harry smiled. "All right."
Just then, Voldemort's Death Eaters began to make noise outside of the Shrieking Shack. "We've found 'em, my lord," an especially stupid one called out.
Lucius Malfoy could be heard next. "Where's Dumbledore?"
Ginny very nearly shuddered at the tone of his voice, but bravely called out, "He's unable to come. He sends his regards."
"My lord, Dumbledore is not here."
"I heard her," said a voice that was almost a hiss. The man that slithered in was nothing like the Tom Riddle that Ginny remembered from her diary, except for the eyes. Not for the first time, Ginny was sure he had evil eyes.
Harry ignored Voldemort. "Come on, Gin. Shields up."
"What is this?"
"Nothing, Tom. Pay me no mind," Harry said, almost mockingly, though Ginny could feel the fright in him.
Reluctantly, they released each other's hands. Closing their eyes, they each focused.
"I promised you once I would kill you. Do you remember?"
Harry nodded. "I recall making that same promise to myself about you."
"Ready?" Ginny asked in a low.
"Defensia!" They both yelled it, and to everybody's astonishment, a blue shield-like wave of energy began to flow around them.
"So, you've discovered your parents' spell." There was a tone of mockery in Voldemort's voice. "It doesn't work, you know."
Harry grinned, but it wasn't a nice grin. "I know."
"Ah. We're playing a game. But don't you think the stakes are a little high for a chess match, Potter?" He waved his wand at the Weasleys. "Kill them."
The order was absent, almost carefree.
"Quickly," Harry whispered to Ginny. "We've got to move quickly. Concentrate on Neville."
Ginny nodded, and pulled out the silver hand.
"Ready?" Ginny asked Neville after a minute.
"As I'll ever be," Neville said with a smile.
The energy in their wands began to make them quake.
Around them, they could hear the distant sounds of a battle, but they couldn't focus on that. They had to focus on the spell.
Then Harry nodded, and the unspoken signal was understood by the both of them.
They held the silver hand together, and reached it towards the Dark Lord. "Philantra Carpe!"
Ron's leg hurt. He sincerely hoped that it wouldn't cramp on him and make running impossible, but he had more important things to worry about. Like stunning Death Eaters before they could kill him.
There were fewer Death Eaters than there were Weasleys and professors, and so the action was pretty spread out, but that didn't mean that Ron wouldn't have to concentrate.
"Pertificus totalus!" he shouted, so worn and tired he couldn't just say the incantation.
Suddenly, he heard a shocked scream.
Limping his way over, he saw Hermione was caught by a Death Eater, heard him whisper, "Crucio!" almost stroking the word as if he were stroking a lover.
"No!" He leaped, and knocked out the Death Eater with his bear hands.
"Hermione, are you all right?" he demanded.
"Hurts," she whispered. "All over."
"I know. I'm sorry. Hold on, okay?"
Hermione managed a tired nod.
Then Ron heard Harry and Ginny call out the magic words.
In his office, Dumbledore smiled, and the quill dropped from his hand.
Harry's whole body shook with effort. He nearly sobbed with relief. It was over.
From across the room, Lucius Malfoy stood slowly, raised his wand and pointed it at Harry. Before anyone could speak, or move, he whispered, "Avada Kedavra."
Neville leaped in front of his hero. Harry reached to try to pull him out of the way, but it was too late. Neville, the boy who had worked so hard to be mediocre, who never felt like he got any recognition for anything in his life, the boy who thought he had been a Squib for a large portion of his life, was smiling as he died.
Dear Mr. Potter and Ms. Weasley,
If you are reading this, then all that I had hoped for has finally come to pass. Lord Voldemort is gone from your lives, never to touch them again.
That's not to say that evil has been conquered. Oh, no. Too often do we see those of the Dark rise to power, and too often we find ourselves having to be the ones to cut them back.
This all began with unreasonable hate, so fight it with unreasonable love.
A long time ago, a friend of mine said to me that true love has to be tested in fire before it could be pronounced pure gold. I hope that yours has made it through the flames.
Best wishes and good luck from your Headmaster,
**My Thanks and Acknowledgements To You
First and foremost, my thanks go to J.K. Rowling for her wonderful story- without which "Tested In Fire" would not be here.
A big shot out to the Divine Power, without which this would have never been anything at all. Thank You for all that You do for me.
Secondly, I need to thank Anne, for doing a wonderful job as my beta and being one of the very first members of my Yahoo! Group, which coincidentally, is located here: Tested In Fire Fans. She's been a wonderful help to me, as well as being patient beyond what I would be. I hope she's ready to go on board for the sequel, which, heaven help me, I've already started work on.
Paula also deserves credit, because she beta'd this story during the first five chapters, I believe. Thank you! You gave TIF a wonderful start, and I loved exchanging e-mails for the short time that we did.
Next, I need to thank Jessica and Michelle. Our friendship really has been tested in fire, and they've come through for me in more ways than one.
Debbie and Meghan S.: You two have been absolutely wonderful towards me. You've been great pals, and I'm rooting for the both of you in life, and in your creative projects!
Risa- my pal who's been going through some rough times, but you would never know it. You've been an inspiration for me, as well as providing some lines for Anna. She's based on you… some of the way.
Maria: Thanks for reading this and supporting me, and bugging me about updating, and wanting the sequel. Without you, I would have going insane.
Zach, a.k.a. Draco Verde, a.k.a. Insane Git- Thanks for your encouragement and the time you helped me deal with the flamer! I love you, little brother… well, I guess you're bigger than me. Don't blush. I mean it.(About loving you… well, yea, and you being bigger…)
Thank you to all of my wonderful reviewers! It's been an amazing journey!