Disclaimer: Still not mine, you'd know if it was, my nametag would read J.K. Rowling and would be writing a prequel to Harry Potter. Hell! I'd be writing a sequel too!
A/N: Thanks to my darling beta, Fredrika, who works so fast although she is very busy! Another chapter, but there won't be many more! Oh noes! The end is nigh!
Chapter 18: Prisons
The Warts couldn't do anything to stop the Death-Eater calling for reinforcements. His grip on Luna's neck was too tight, and she was so tiny and frail, it wouldn't take much to snap it like a twig. Hermione stood frozen on the spot, her wand still pointed at the man, searching for any way to get out of this sticky situation. She watched horror-struck as Luna desperately scratched at the strong wizard's arm with her pale little hand while the other... The other hand was hiding her wand in her robes but she could see the very tip of it starting to glow. Hermione's eyes snapped back to Luna's face and she saw her smile at them all confidently.
Hermione smiled back and the next moment, the Death-Eater let out a surprised yell as he toppled forward, straight through Luna's unsubstantial form and hit his head on the marble floor with a loud crack, too surprised to break his fall.
Then, they all spun around at the ruckus behind them. They were already surrounded by the rest of the Death-Eaters, Voldemort arriving at a more leisurely pace, his ranks splitting before him like the red sea. The snake-faced man glared at them all hatefully, and unexpectedly addressed Luna.
"I finally meet you, creature." The dark wizard hissed, advancing on her and raising a bony finger near her face as if he wanted to touch her but holding himself back at the last second. "Jussst what are you?"
Luna didn't say anything, just stared at him with her unsettling, wide eyes.
"You'd better join me, creature. I can give you whatever you need, whatever you desire...Power, wealth, knowledge..."
But Luna remained mute. Voldemort hissed in anger at her lack of reaction, and turned towards the others.
"Everything these fools cannot offer. A werewolf!" He mocked, looking at Remus who was holding Hermione's hand tightly.
"A mudblood!" He sneered, and his followers laughed accordingly. "A traitor! And... Isn't this the Longbottom heir? I thought he was a squib!" The Death-Eaters chortled and jeered.
"Is that the best you could do, Potter? Do you hope to vanquish me with this scum? Crucio!" He bellowed, wand aimed on his arch-nemesis.
Harry jumped to the side but the hex caught his hip and he crumpled to the floor, screaming in agony. Severus tried to intervene but was immediately put under one of the Death-Eaters crucio too, and he fell to the floor, writhing in pain next to Harry. Luna however flew forward, putting herself on the spells path. It didn't stop the dark spells, but the dark wizards' concentration wavered as if they were affected by her close proximity.
As if on cue, Hermione, Remus and Neville all transformed and floated next to Luna, towards the dark robed men who stepped back in awe, fear or surprise. Turning around, she saw Severus was released from the spell, but Voldemort still held his wand trained on Harry. Angry, she stepped closer and accidentally bumped into Remus, who was snarling very wolfishly at Voldemort. Their two patronus forms flared brightly for a second, making the dark wizard flinch back. The four patroni shared a knowing look and started surrounding their worst enemy.
"Kill them, Kill them all!" Voldemort screamed at his men.
A killing curse flew by, narrowly missing the dark wizard himself who hissed in rage at his followers. A reducto flew from the opposite side, straight at the assembled Death-Eaters, raising a voluminous cloud of dust, splintered wood and stone that just flew straight through her translucent body. She glanced back, it was Severus who had cast the spell. The Slytherin was now trying to revive Harry. Reassured, she stepped behind Voldemort and extended her hand to Remus and Neville standing on either side of the snake-like man, their patronus forms flaring brightly once more. They in turn held hands with Luna who was still standing bravely in front of the most feared wizard of their era and the circle they formed glowed brightly. Voldemort shielded his red eyes with an arm, yelling at his men over and over again to kill them all, but they were either unconscious or knew it was pointless since everything just seemed to fly straight through them. Hermione was still unsure it would be true of the killing curse but she didn't care. She knew something was happening, something important that could very well end Voldemort's reign of terror.
Voldemort was turning around like a caged animal, flinching back every time he got too close to one of the glowing forms and casting a myriad of spells at them in turn, thankfully to no avail.
"You may want to reevaluate the worth of my friends, Riddle. Although you don't even give any value to friendship. It's sad, really." Harry said calmly, appearing through the cloud of dust. "Now, I really think we should put an end to this silly prophecy once and for all, don't you agree."
Voldemort shouted incoherently, spit flying from his lipless mouth but he seemed incapable of escaping the four patroni's influence. Harry calmly aimed his wand between Luna and Remus, and she smiled encouragingly at him when their eyes met. This was it. This was what they had been waiting for for so long.
"Avada Kedavra!" Harry shouted, his face contorted with loathing.
The green jet of light leapt from his wand, hitting Voldemort square in the heart but his body didn't fall lifelessly to the ground like they had seen happen countless times, but imploded on itself, blowing away everything and everyone that stood in the way. Only the four patroni remained, unwavering, their magical energies feeding one another through their linked hands. And in their midst, Voldemort.
Hermione , Remus, Luna and Neville looked at one another.
"He just doesn't give up, does he?" Remus muttered.
"Isn't stubbornness a Slytherin trait?" Luna asked in her sing-song voice.
"No, I think it's cunning, Luna. Although seeing this one, I'm starting to doubt it myself." Neville answered lightly with a nod at the late late late Voldemort.
"Oh! Harry, Severus! How nice of you to join us." Hermione said, spotting the two wizards hobbling back towards them again, leaning on each other for support. "I don't suppose you know what to do with our unwelcome guest here? He's kinda clingy."
Severus was peering at the black indistinct mist that was hovering between the patroni.
"Is that…?" He asked, unable to voice his question.
"I'm afraid so." Hermione replied. "He looks just like you described him in our first year, Harry. And the smell of him! Gods, it feels like my nose is melting."
Harry sniffed experimentally.
"I don't smell anything at all." He said surprised. "Must be one of your fairy thing."
"I am certainly not a fairy!" Remus snapped. "It was bad enough being a werewolf, I won't survive being called a fairy!"
Severus barked a laugh and started prodding Voldemort's spirit with his wand and muttered incantations, eliciting a hiss or a flash of red eyes from time to time. Harry shrugged, sliding down against a damaged pillar, and she guessed he had as much idea of what to do with a dark, errant piece of soul as she did.
"Well..." Severus' silky tones intoned in his professorial voice as he limped around the patroni prison and the dark spirit within. "As long as he has more Horcruxes out there, he cannot be exorcised or destroyed completely, so I propose we contain him until we resolve that small matter."
"I hope you're not suggesting we babysit Voldemort until then?" Hermione said crisply, her hair whipping in his direction.
"I wouldn't dare." The Slytherin muttered. "No, I'll create a special cage for him, but I'll need something from each of you. Willingly given, it should be as powerful as a unicorn's gift and, if this works, we won't be pressed for time."
The four nodded and Severus retrieved an unbreakable large vial from his pockets. Being a Potion Master had its perks. He went to Luna's side who shed a brilliant tear of pure white light into the vial and with his wand, Severus coaxed it to completely cover the glass which now emitted a feeble light. Next Severus went to Neville, who bit his lip, a single drop of blood falling right into the middle of the container where it resumed the shape of a devil's snare. Severus looked impressed but made no comment.
"I see you heal yourselves, just as unicorns, after offering a gift." He noted, however.
"I'm not a bloody unicorn, either." They heard Remus mumble, which made Harry laugh heartily.
Much to her annoyance, the Potions Master skipped Hermione to go to the pouting ex-werewolf.
"You'll need a cork for that." Remus pointed out and the Slytherin nodded gravely, having apparently known all along and no doubt the reason he skipped Hermione. Remus thought for a moment and pulled the hand holding Hermione's close to his mouth.
"No!" She cried out, understanding his intent. "Don't-"
But he did, Remus bit off the end of his pinky finger, wincing at the strange pain he felt in his patronus form, and spat it out towards Severus, who levitated it with his hand while he transfigured it with his wand. He tightened his grip on his witch's hand, his finger already healing itself.
"Don't worry, love. It's not much of a sacrifice to make sure you're safe." He said with a warm, reassuring smile. "And it's already healed itself."
"B-But…" She stuttered. True his wound was healed but he was still missing a piece of his little finger. As if he wasn't scarred enough already.
"Potter, here." Severus barked, putting an end to the nauseating sweetness of the two Gryffindors.
Harry complied but scowled at his ex-professor.
"I'm still not a dog, you know."
"Quiet. I am going to banish the Dark Lord's spirit into the vial. You, Potter, will seal him in with the cork." The Slytherin ordered, handing the younger man a blueish cork that glowed faintly. "Like the magic used to seal prophecies, only the one who seals it will be able to open it. I think it will be safer that way, for everyone."
Harry nodded, impatient to get it over with, while Hermione wondered when she would do her part. As soon as the malevolent black mist form was imprisoned into the corked vial, Severus took it to Hermione and she sensed instinctively what was needed. Hands still linked with the other patroni because it seemed to make their magic stronger, Hermione reached for a strand of her long wild hair whipping about and plucked it out, handing it to her snarky friend. Just like the other offerings, he didn't touch it directly, using his wand instead to have it tied all around the vial and cork in an elaborate pattern, the last lock to Voldemort's prison.
With a collective sigh of relief, the four patroni returned to their human form. Hermione hurried to Remus' side. Although she hadn't had the courage to say so, she was afraid that even if his finger was completely healed, although incomplete, that missing part of his finger would remind him too strongly of Pettigrew. However, he seemed totally oblivious to the analogy and engulfed her small frame in his strong arms as soon as she approached, peppering her with kisses.
"I can't believe it's over." He was saying over and over again.
"Because it isn't." Severus answered sarcastically, stepping in between them, as he held the small prison for all to see.
It was quite beautiful if you weren't aware of what it was holding. It looked like an intricately carved glass vial that glowed the light characteristic to a patronus, and in it's midst, a dark blue, tiny devil's snare was entangled around a shifting black shape that flashed red at random.
"Do you think he's in pain?" Luna wondered, her nose close to the vial.
"Probably." Severus answered with a shrug.
"I hope so." Harry added.
"Maybe we should just leave him in there forever." Neville suggested.
"Until, one day, a dunderhead wonders what's in it and manages to open it, unleashing the Dark Lord on the world once more."
"Yeah...I guess he would be a bit cranky after that." The once shy boy agreed sheepishly, but no one could reproach him for suggesting it.
Footsteps rapidly approaching had the WARTs members immediately on the defensive once more. The Death-Eaters that had been present at Voldemort's side had swiftly fled, bar those that still lay lifeless after Severus' reducto curse, but, judging by the sound, they had only gone for as long as it took to get reinforcements.
Severus and Harry stood side by side, wands drawn and flanked by Hermione and Remus, while Luna and Neville covered their backs. The doors burst open and their shields were instinctively up.
"Harry?" An elderly voice questioned in disbelief.
"Albus?" The Boy-Who-Lived mimicked, agreeably surprised. "What are you...all or you, doing here?" He asked as he took in all the Order members present, as well as the other WARTs and some Aurors he didn't know but recognized from their red robes.
"Sorry Harry…" Explained one of the twins, grinning and not looking sorry at all.
"You weren't coming back…" Said the other, smiling as broadly.
"So we called in the cavalry." They finished together.
"I see you met a spot of trouble." Arthur Weasley told them, pointing at the pile of rubble and discarded Death-Eaters.
"Ah...yes." Severus drawled. "Voldemort was not very pleased with our visit."
The others snorted at the euphemism, while the reinforcements cringed at the name or looked around them in alarm, thinking the dark wizard was still lurking in the shadows. Albus however, stared straight at Harry.
"The prophecy…?" He breathed out hopefully.
"Is bullshit." Harry replied promptly, earning him a smack on the head by Hermione. "Voldemort is still here. And I mean quite literally right here."
At that, Albus pointed his wand at the group.
"Explain yourselves." He ordered.
Severus rolled his eyes.
"He'd hardly manage to possess a whole group of wizards, Headmaster. What the barely-articulate Potter was trying to explain is that Voldemort is no longer a threat, we have managed to confine him to a magical prison." The Slytherin held up the vial.
"That's Vol-Voldemort?" One of the aurors asked, pointing a shaky wand at the small glass container.
"His spirit, at least." Severus answered with a nod. "Of course, Potter had to kill him, again, before that."
Most of the people looked to flabbergasted by all these revelations to connect all the dots together and realize that they were free of the dark wizard's reign of terror. All except Dumbledore.
"Maybe I should keep it safe with me then, at Hogwarts?" The old wizard announced, approaching them and all but snatching the small glass prison from Severus' hands. But the Slytherin was quicker and jerked back, cradling the vial safely.
"At Hogwarts?" gasped several people. "With the children?"
"Are you mental?" Harry exclaimed before clapping his hand on his mouth.
A heated debated followed during which the majority of the magical folk present agreed Harry, if anyone, was entitled to be the prison's guardian, which he, in turn relinquished to Severus since he was the prison conceptor and Harry would be too busy hunting Horcruxes in the near future. The Slytherin was at first surprised by the boy's trust but he accepted nonetheless, not wanting to give Dumbledore a chance to get his hands on it.
When everybody had finally cooled down, only one witch's temper was still skyrocketing as she glared with narrow eyes at the back of the Warts group.
"REMUS JOHN LUPIN! What do you think you're doing to that poor girl!" Molly Weasley finally snapped.
Remus glanced up guiltily at the angry woman, like any wizard called by his full name would, while "the poor girl" in question was smiling dreamily at nothing, still dazed by her boyfriend's passionate kiss. They had been snogging for a while, too happy that the future was finally looking brighter and not caring overly much for the squabble over who got to babysit Voldemort.
"Uhm...Celebrating?" Remus said uncertainly.
A few catcalls and the twins making loud smooching noises were a much better reaction than the odd couple had expected. Of course, Molly and Albus were still frowning at them, but most of the others finally realized that there was effectively something to celebrate and couldn't wait to get back to their own families and announce the unbelievable but very welcome news. Remus and Hermione bid goodbye to the other Warts, and whisked away before Severus could put into words what his ominous scowl was announcing.
The couple apparated to the cottage and warded it for privacy since it was a very well known place now, and neither of them was looking forward to have Molly, Albus, or worse, Severus, come knocking on the door for a "serious talk". Once that was done however, they became very aware of each other.
"Tea?" Hermione asked nervously, blushing when she met Remus' eyes.
"Yes!" he answered a bit too eagerly for a simple offer of tea. He chuckled nervously and the curly-haired witch went into the kitchen to prepare a platter but when she returned a few minutes later, Remus had fallen asleep where he sat on the sofa. Hermione was feeling drained herself and felt dizzy on her legs, realizing it was probably the Pepper-Up potion wearing off. She set the platter down and slumped into the sofa next to the man she loved, snuggling against him. In a few seconds, she too was fast asleep.
She woke up, groggy and stiff, and in a very bad mood because of the incessant tapping sound that had wrenched her from her much needed sleep. She smiled fondly at the poor Remus who was still out like a light and looked just as uncomfortable as she had been. The noise was coming from the kitchen window and she immediately recognized Harry snowy white owl, Hedwig II. Harry was not good with names.
"Hello, beautiful." She told the bird, letting her in. She unwrapped the newspaper tied to her leg and tossed her a dry biscuit. "Sorry, that's all I have."
Hedwig II pulled one of her chestnut locks and was gone with a scornful hoot. Hermione wondered what was so important that Harry had deemed necessary to send his owl with the Daily Prophet. Surely, nothing could beat their victory over Voldemort.
You-Know-Who as good as dead!
Harry Potter Victorious!
by Rita Skeeter.
Hermione barked a laugh. She had never read such a ridiculous title before. To think it was front-page too! She promised herself to have it framed for when she needed a good laugh when she felt strong arms encircle her waist and an unshaved jaw grazing her own smooth skin.
"What's so funny this early in the morning?" Remus mumbled still half-asleep.
"I think it's closer to the afternoon, actually." She said glancing at the sun high up in the sky and hugging him back. "Harry sent the paper, I think you should read it."
Remus returned her mirthful look with a puzzled expression, and they sat at the kitchen table with coffee and toast, while Remus regaled her with the best parts of the article.
Sources at the scene of the Dark Lord's defeat report that our beloved Boy-Who-Lived defeated the most feared wizard of our era with the help of his faithful friends, Hermione Granger, his well-know heartbreaker sidekick, Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood, Remus Lupin and Severus Snape. This odd team captured He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named in an even stranger fashion by bottling him up. The authorities at Magical Law Enforcement assures us however that it is perfectly safe to say that the dark wizard will not be a threat to our society any longer, but have refused to comment on their lack of participation at this momentous event (read page 3: Minister of Magic and head of MLE resign.)
Surprisingly, Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry and Harry Potter's mentor, has refused to comment as well. (read page 4 - Dumbledore seen at a knitting contest when the Dark Lord was vanquished).
The article went on and on about how much the wizarding world owed Harry Potter. Hermione smirked. If Rita Skeeter thought she would buy her way into an interview with Harry by flattering him so much, she would be very disappointed indeed. Because of her, he probably couldn't set a foot outside without being mobbed by grateful witches and wizards.
Hermione sighed in relief when they found another article sharing the frontpage written by Parvati Patil and warning the wizarding world to be weary of Voldemort's now rogue Death-Eaters and dark creatures roaming the country. She understood everyone needed the chance to celebrate, to feel free and happy again, after so long under the constant threat of a mad dark wizard, but, until the aurors managed to capture what was left of his followers, she herself wouldn't feel entirely safe.
Another tapping started and Hermione looked at the window but, instead of an owl, she saw the angry snarling face of Severus Snape.
"Uh Oh…" She said, looking at the worried Remus.