Harry Potter and the Four Horsemen
Disclaimer: As Before
Dedication: I would like to dedicate this story to ADVPhoenix for creating the challenge and to everyone that stays with me throughout everything I do. My recommended read for this story is Midnight Sun and its sequel Darkest Night, Shadowed Dawn by Herald-MageAnduli, which is an amazing pair of stories featuring the topic of this story: Wrong BWL.
I'm not going to respond to reviews, just thank EVERYBODY that's kept this going: a big thanks to the likes of T-TrainorTurkeyT, Winged Seer Wolf, StormyFireDragon, ultima-owner, ArchangelGundam and everybody else that has followed Four Horsemen to the very end: you guys are the best!
"So come on, Tom: let's finish this the way that we started it: TOGETHER!"
Then, to the shock and disbelief of the Dark Lord, Death began to transform…
Chapter 15: Judgment Day
When the Hogwarts Express reached Hogsmeade Station, the now ex-Horsemen felt a little drained and slightly dizzy, their resolve and their combined strengths being the only things keeping them on their feet as they sluggishly moved towards the carriages where Hermione, Taren and Luna noticed the Thestrals pulling the carriages. Though they were technically no longer Horsemen, they had still seen their fair share of death and, for that, the creatures of hellacious beauty and dark omens were visible to the Slytherin team.
Reaching the school, Luna shared a glance with Taren, who nodded in understanding as he withdrew his cloak – the only remnants of their powers being the items they'd been sent in the beginning – and, once they were clear of the other students, the trio disappeared under the cloak, making their way up to the Defence classroom where, as they'd hoped, they found Hunter Redgrave sat behind his desk, his katana lying flat across the desk in front of him.
Locking the door, Taren removed his cloak, though Hunter wasn't surprised as he merely glanced to the trio and, with a sigh, he spoke with an almost defeated tone, "So he did it after all? I was afraid of this."
"Hunter," Hermione asked, her voice laced with a mix of fury and suspicion as she faced their teacher and ally, "What's happened? Why did Dante drain our power as the Horsemen? Why did he drain them?"
"Calm yourself, my Lady," Hunter remarked, his cool eyes on them as he explained the situation, "You need not worry as all tasks at hand have been fulfilled: Lord Death is now at the zenith of his power and ready to face his destiny."
"Destiny?" asked Luna, her eyes wide as she drew her wand, pointing it at Hunter, "What destiny? Even I didn't see this coming: Dante just…just upped and left and then Voldemort attacks and they vanish…what happened?"
"Where is he, Redgrave?" growled Taren, pointing his own wand at Hunter, "We may not be the Horsemen any longer, but that doesn't mean that we don't know how to punish those that stand in our way: so start talking. Where is Dante and why in the name of the Seven Circles did he drain our powers?"
"To face Voldemort," Hunter explained, his voice still calm as he added, "And accomplish the fate that was chosen for him the day he made his choice to hunt down Voldemort's soul and devour it."
"What fate?" asked Hermione, almost somewhere between crying and screaming as she faced Hunter, "You can't mean the First's offer! Dante was deciding that and said that he didn't want it, but…"
"But he has no choice," Hunter explained, now rising from his seat, his katana being tied to his back as he moved around the desk and, standing before the trio, he added, "He never did: though he did not know this until recently, Lord Death had made his choice the day that he did what all that have come before him did: he targeted a particular soul."
"Tom Riddle's," Taren remarked, earning a nod from Hunter as the man seemed to remain unnaturally calm against the power that stood before him. "So what? We've always stood together in this: we trained together; we bled together and we worked together: why would Dante turn his back on that to defeat Riddle?"
"Because he has no other choice," Hunter explained, drawing his own wand before he pointed towards the side, a silent summoning spell revealing what looked like a basin engraved with runes that marked great levels of magical potential, "But if you desire the full story, then look in here."
"A Pensieve?" asked Hermione, keeping her own wand trained on Hunter, "Why?"
"Because this will explain everything better than I can," Hunter replied, drawing the memory from inside his head and, placing it into the Pensieve, he looked to each of the Horsemen as he told them, "But no matter what you see in here, you cannot defy Fate: it is the one power that even the Four Horsemen cannot overcome."
He fell silent after that, though the ex-Horsemen seemed to be caught between confusion and determination as they silently asked one another for opinions, their eyes filled with a mix of bewilderment that was only outmatched by their loyalties to their old partner. For a moment, none of them said anything but, as they shared their silent conversation, it was Hermione that made her choice: stepping forwards, she looked to Hunter's eyes with more light in hers than had ever been shown as the Horseman of War.
"I won't lose him…" she told Hunter, before lowering her head and entering the Pensieve.
Seeing this, the others knew what they had to do; standing with Hermione, Taren and Luna both lowered their heads into the Pensieve, finding themselves drawn into the memories of their ally and teacher…
Some ways from the trio's task of discovering the truth, Lily Black sat alone in Grimmauld Place – Sirius was out with an old friend celebrating him becoming a Father very soon – and, as she looked down to her swollen stomach, Lily smiled sadly before she asked, "Do you think your big brother was trying to tell us something…Michael?"
A soft kick seemed to reply to her question, almost as though her child, though unborn, seemed to understand his Mother's words from inside the womb. Then again, this was a child whose brother was the Horseman of Death and whose parents were the Lord and Lady of Azkaban, King and Queen of Dementors and Master and Mistress of Fear and Nightmares.
At this moment, nothing could surprise Lily about her child, though she couldn't help but feel a sense of sadness with her question: Dante had been trying to say something, but Lily hadn't wanted to admit it to herself as she'd seen that dark look in his eyes the day that he'd discovered her to be cursed and broken by James' magic.
Yet, there was no denying it: Dante had almost been saying something when he'd made her and Sirius promise to take care of Michael and love him like her and James should have loved Dante back when he was Harry.
He'd been saying…goodbye.
Maybe that was why he'd asked for the child to be named Michael: a child with a name of an angel of light born to parents who ruled the darkness of the wizarding world and to a brother who had darkness in him that couldn't be beaten.
Either way, Lily felt sad and, through her maternal instincts, or maybe it was her magical affinity with her child, she didn't know, but something told her that Michael was also sad and worried for his big brother. That was why Lily was sat in the main room of the house surrounded by warm scents and with soft piano music playing nearby as she massaged her stomach, trying to soothe her child.
However, all that was cut off when a knock sounded at the door to the house; for a moment, Lily considered leaving it, in case it was someone that wanted to try and kill her, to take her away from Dante, but she also felt that was a little paranoid of her. After all, the house wasn't under the Fidelius and she had no reason to hide, not when she could move through the darkness and escape to Azkaban if the need was great enough. Yet, Lily didn't go to respond to the knocking unarmed; she held her wand in her hand, the shadows following her as they seemed to prepare to protect their Mistress.
Reaching the door, Lily conjured a makeshift chain for the door and, taking the handle, she opened it slightly, peering out onto the doorstep and, as she did, her eyes widened in shock as she saw James Potter standing there, alone and looking a lot worse for wear than what Lily had known.
With fire in her eyes at the sight of her ex, Lily hissed, "What the bloody hell are you doing here, James? You're not welcome anywhere near me after what you did: leave me alone."
"Please…" James gasped, his voice weakened by fatigue and a sense of sadness as he told her, "Lily, Lady Black, please…before you shut me out, please…can we…can we talk? I'm unarmed; there's no-one here, but me; please…I just want to talk to you."
"After what you put me through?" asked Lily, trying to keep her voice and her emotions as level as possible, but it was hard because of the hatred that she felt for James, "Why should I give you the time of day? Now leave me alone!"
"Please Lil," James pleaded, his eyes on her as he told her, "Please…just this one time and then…then I promise, I'll never bother you again: please…just five minutes."
He didn't seem to be aggressive, but Lily had lowered her defences before and look what had happened: she'd nearly lost her eldest son, her baby, to his jealousy and spite and then he'd cursed her mind and made her little more than his sex slave and punch-bag. Then again, Lily knew that he couldn't actually try anything: he said he was unarmed, but she wasn't: she had the shadows, her magic and, if need be, she'd have one of her spiritual wraiths here in seconds to take him out…though Dante had wanted his soul for himself.
Releasing the chain, Lily opened the door and, with the same fire in her eyes that had actually attracted James to her in the first place, she told him, "Come in…you get one chance…and then you're gone!"
James nodded and walked into the house, following Lily's directions into the lounge where she sat him down and kept her wand on him, her voice still cold as she asked, "What do you want?"
"I want to apologise," James told her, his voice showing sadness and sincerity, but Lily kept her guard up, "To you, to Dante, to Sirius and…most of all…to what…what I tried to take from you: please, Lily…please forgive me."
"Why?" asked Lily, indicating the mantelpiece where her only remaining photo of Dante back when he was Harry was in the centre of the other pictures – the photo she'd given Dante before he'd rescued her – her eyes filled with fury as she hissed, "You're a monster, James Potter: you expect me to forgive you for ostracising our son, leaving him at an orphanage that was the same place that spawned the thing that tried to kill us, disowning him and trying to abuse me beyond any humane levels? How can I forgive you for that? You sent Dante away, made him feel broken and alone, sent him into your best friend's family whom you then turned your back on because he was supporting my baby and not your precious Jackass Jason! I mean what happened, James? Harry, Dante and Jason were closer than close before…that night and then you turn your back on Dante because he's apparently nobody. What sort of Father are you?"
"That's just what Kassandra asked me," James explained, looking to Lily's eyes as he added, "She…she was so angry with me after our parley with you and Ha-Dante that she left home! Helena went with her and, when she asked if Jason was coming, he…he…oh Lily, he broke down."
"What do you mean?" asked Lily, keeping her wand on James as she saw his tears; as far as she was concerned, they were nothing more than crocodile tears.
"He found our old album," James explained, his words hesitant from his tears as he addressed his ex, "And…inside it, there…there were pictures of Dante and…and he was helping Jason; when I…when I asked him where those pictures came from, he said…he said they were taken before…before we sent Dante away. He wasn't a slimy Slytherin all the time, especially not around his brother; he…he was a member of the family and I…I never realised it."
"No," Lily agreed, her voice laced with rage as she addressed James, "You just let Albus convince you that it was for the Greater Good that Dante was sent away: I know about those pictures, James, because I took them; me, Severus, Sirius and Remus all took them when you were milking the fame and fortune that came with our son. And now, when it's all come out that you worshipped the wrong son do you suddenly regain your heart: you truly are filth, James. Dante will never forgive you and neither will I."
"I didn't change because he told the truth," James muttered, his words nearly-silent as he looked into Lily's green eyes, "I…I changed…the day he…he nearly killed me: when…when the Dementor was…tormenting me and his…his Power was making me see my death, I really saw…I saw his sadness, I saw him being alone and descending into darkness…I saw everything I always despised being forced…on my own son."
"You saw the light."
Lily looked past James' chair, her eyes wide with surprise as she saw Sirius standing there, his wand pointed at the back of the chair where James was sat, Remus standing next to him, his eyes filled with as much rage as the rest of them. Then again, with the moon so close, it was probably a good thing that Lily and Sirius were there…otherwise Remus could have and probably would have ripped James apart.
"Yes," James whispered, looking behind his chair to Sirius' cold glare, "Sirius…I didn't…I tried not to see it, but…he was different not because he was dark…he was changed, like you were when you were a kid, because…"
"He was a survivor," Sirius remarked, his voice laced with his own rage as he explained, "Like my family turned their backs on me before I became Lord Azkaban, Dante's turned on him and he did whatever he had to do to survive. If that meant ostracising himself and apparently disrespecting his kid brother, then so be it. But then you made everything worse because you never saw it, James: you never saw how those two loved one another and cared for each other. In fact, did you know that the day you and Lily took Dante to Wool's, Jason came to me?"
"He did?" asked James, earning a nod from Lily; she'd heard this story before.
"He used the Floo and came straight here," Sirius explained, his voice holding a slightly calmer edge as he explained his story, "He asked where Harry had gone and why his room was empty; when I asked him why he would care about that being the big holy Boy-Who-Lived, he started crying and said that Harry, the same Harry that now calls himself Dante, was the only person except for me and Lily that didn't care about his title. Harry was there for him when you weren't around and, when you were, they considered it a game: a little imaginary game to see just how much Daddy cared about both his sons. When Harry saw that you didn't, he was sad and so, with help from Jason, he took his time to learn and even helped Jason learn, not because he was the Boy-Who-Lived, which we now know he wasn't, but because he was his brother…so, my question to him was what he would do next."
"And…what did he do, Sirius?" asked James, actually startled at the Slytherin-like slyness of his own son with how he changed to survive the lack of love shown by the monster that was James Potter.
"He said he would never forget Harry," Sirius explained, wiping at his eye as he tried not to remember how he'd felt that day, "But over time, he began to and he began to become cold and hard against the memory of his own brother. Then, the day I confronted you about Harry's disowning, Jason came to me again and actually said sorry…for you! He said he didn't want to lose me as his godfather, but I told him that I had no choice and then, James Bloody Potter, the boy that I called my little pup held me and made me swear that I would do what he clearly couldn't anymore. That I'd look after Harry…and I did: I also vowed that I'd never tell him of our talks, but every time I saw those two confront one another and I heard about Harry's, Dante's hatred for Jason, I was sad and sorely tempted to break my promise…but I never did."
James felt a cold weight anchor itself into his chest as he considered what Sirius was saying; it was like a secret watcher and a promise that changed everything: a warrior choosing a side all for the sake of a protection and a promise to another.
He didn't know why, but James suddenly had an image of Severus Snape standing there telling this story.
Looking from Sirius to Lily, James coughed before he bowed his head and, gulping hard, he told Lily, "Jason's gone back to Hogwarts with the others, but…I don't know if he'll come home: Lily, please…write to him…help him…before I lose another son."
"I think you lost Jason a long time ago, James," Sirius remarked, meeting Lily's eyes before he sighed as he added, "But I'll write to him: it makes sense that I do it given the secrets he told me."
"Not that Dante may ever forgive you or him for what you did to him," Lily added, her voice hard as she explained, "Especially since he's said goodbye."
Hunter's Flashback Start
Watching from the window of Hogwarts, Hunter Redgrave kept his mind focused on the task of preparing his young lord for everything that lay ahead: he knew that the time was coming and that the First would visit the Lord and, when that happened, he just hoped that Dante was prepared.
Packing up his things, Hunter glanced once to his katana, which lay against the stand in his office, before he sighed and, approaching it, he unsheathed the blade and held it up, turning it around so that his reflection was in the blade.
His…and the white-haired man standing behind him.
"Hunter," Lucifer replied, his skull-headed cane pressed into the ground of the office as he asked, "How are they doing?"
"Death is ready," Hunter explained, his voice filled with hard emotion as he explained, "He chooses to follow this path through to the end and has nothing that will stop him, but…I can't help but worry for him."
"I know," The First replied, his voice as cool and slick as ever, "The soul he devoured…it is not yet complete."
"But he doesn't know that," Hunter agreed, turning to face The First as he spoke, "Dante actually believes he has vanquished Tom Riddle: if he were to learn the truth, then…"
"Then his fate would be chosen for him," The First explained, "Death must wander the lands and claim the souls of the condemned, but if Dante Black were to target a specific soul, he would have no choice other than to become Death and, for that, his mortal body would have to be destroyed."
"And how would that happen?" asked Hunter, his voice filled with curiosity as he packed up his things, "The others follow him to the end and his Chosen sticks close to him; the only way for him to embrace that fate would be if he…"
"Absorbed the full power of the Seals of Armageddon," The First finished, his face twisted into a sinister grin as he nodded once, "And embraced the full power of the Rider that he has become: the Pale Rider."
"But he's not going to embrace it," Hunter mused, facing The First as he added, "Not without…well, without the truth being revealed and even then, he'd have to actually want to do this, but how…"
"Do you really need to ask?" asked The First, his voice now edged by a demonic growl as he told Hunter, "You more than anyone should know that I can be extremely persuasive when I need to be."
Withdrawing their heads from the Pensieve, the ex-Horsemen glared at Hunter before Taren asked, "So the First tricked Dante into accepting the offer of power, is that what I'm hearing from that little memory, Hunter?"
"Yes, Taren," Hunter replied, his voice softened by guilt and purpose as he explained, "In that other realm, you four were brought before the First and told about Tom Riddle and, when Dante accepted, it sealed the deal…not for you, but for him. The First is good at making deals and, where the Horsemen are concerned, there is nothing that he will let stand in his way."
"That explains that day," Hermione remarked, recalling how they'd met the First…
"What do you want with us, Mephistopheles?" asked Dante, his hands now holding a chained set of reins tied to Ragnarok.
"To help you fulfil your destiny, of course," Mephistopheles laughed, "The darkness that you thought you had claimed is not truly gone, Death and, without my help, you will not have the power to destroy it once and for all."
"What darkness?" asked Dante, hating the thought and realisation that this…creature was holding his life in his hands, "Do you mean Voldemort? That's impossible; I devoured his soul."
"Did you?" asked Mephistopheles, lifting his cane from the ground before he smashed it down; as if on command, a grey substance began to spread across the ground, forming a mirror that, with another commanding crash of the Devil's cane, revealed the image of the night that Dante had taken the Philosopher's Stone. "Look closer."
Dante did as he was asked and, as he looked closer, he saw it: the thin veil of darkness that trailed away from the chamber while Dante himself took the stone from the mirror.
"He's…he's still alive," Dante growled, the flames around Ragnarok heightening as the anger of the Horseman was felt by the stallion. "And he's coming back."
"Not exactly questions, but yes and yes," Mephistopheles answered, the mirror surface vanishing beneath him as he walked amongst the Horsemen, his voice reaching each of them as he explained, "You may have touched the surface of your powers, my Horsemen, but without additional help, help which can only be provided by the powers inside you and those who wield them, you will not be strong enough to escape the true destiny before you. Despite the history behind your mantles, it is not Armageddon that is your fate, but the true balance of the world: the war of light and darkness must be kept between the Powers and not the mortals."
"So what do you want from us?" asked Taren, watching as the Devil stroked each of their steeds in turn before he stood before the four of them once more.
"Come with me to our world," Mephistopheles explained, "Learn the power inside you: master it and command it; then, when the time is right, I will return you to the mortal plane as Full Horsemen and you shall be able to bring about the Balance once again. You, Death," he pointed his cane at Dante before he explained, "You will get the chance to destroy the darkness that haunts you once and for all and, when you do that, I will release you from the obligation of being my Horseman. You may keep the Power for yourself, but once you destroy the darkness and send Tom Marvolo Riddle to me where he belongs, then you may have your life back…so, do we have a deal?"
"How long will we be…gone for?" asked Hermione, watching Dante with strength in her eyes that she tried to share with her partner-in-fate.
"A couple of years in the mortal time," Mephistopheles answered, "But a lot longer to the rest of you: that is the deal and it is the only way to save your own fates."
Dante's sudden exclamation had the Horsemen and Mephistopheles surprised; meeting the blackened eyes of the Devil with his own, Dante added, "I swore that I would do whatever it took to bring him down and I will: so do whatever you need to, Mephistopheles: for the chance to grind Voldemort's ashes into the fires of hell, I'll do anything! Take me, teach me, do whatever you wish with me: I am Death and I will feed on his soul, his true soul."
"Dante," Hermione insisted, "Let's stop for a mo…"
She was cut off by another loud crack from the cane of Mephistopheles, her voice turning into a cry as the shadows and the powers within them swallowed the Horsemen into its embrace, taking them away from the lives they knew.
And on towards the fate that they had chosen for themselves…
"He manipulated Dante's fears," Hermione remarked, her words filled with rage as she faced Hunter, "And when he accepted, he began training Dante in the full powers, including…how to…"
"Take the power from the Seals," Hunter finished, indicating each of the trio as he told them, "That's what Dante did and, for that, I'm sorry: I thought that the First would let Dante achieve his destiny with you, not without you. That's why you're his Chosen, Lady Hermione: you're the light that shines through the darkness he created for himself. Now…I don't know what's happening, but the First never loses and, this time, he's going after the biggest gift of all, Dante's soul."
"So what do we do about it?"
Hermione, Taren and Luna all rounded on the newcomer, their eyes filled with fury and determination as they saw Jason Potter standing there, his wand on the floor in front of him, his eyes filled with his own sense of determination as he looked to each of the Horsemen. "I may not know the full story about this, but it's taken me nearly seven years to finally admit that I was wrong to challenge him: he was right when he told me that Black or not, Potter or not, we're still blood. He's still my brother and I'm not going to deny him the right to look me in the eye and tell me that I was wrong. So, what do we do about it?"
"Why should we trust you to help him?" asked Taren, his voice filled with rage as he explained, "You forced him into this with your darkness and your hatred; you challenged him because he was a Gryffindor; you're the fool here, Potter."
"Will you shut your mouth for one moment, Snape?" asked Jason, his voice filled with his own fury as he lifted his hand and, with a flick of his wrist, he summoned what looked to be a sword of his own, his eyes on each of the Horsemen as he explained, "This came to me two years ago, but it was never meant for me: it's the Sword of Godric Gryffindor and it rightfully belongs to my brother…whether the forces outside like it or not. As for how you can trust me, the simplest answer is that you can't, but Harry, sorry, Dante never gave up on seeing me for the boy that I was and not the false hero of this world. It's a debt that I now choose to repay and, no matter what anyone says, I'm not going to give up on him: not again."
"Again?" asked Hermione.
"Long story," Jason replied, handing the sword to Hunter before he asked, "Can you do anything, Professor? He doesn't deserve to die: if anyone should…it's me…but I'm not him, I'm not this…Horseman or whatever, I'm just…me; so, what can we do?"
"Plenty," Hunter explained, unsheathing his katana before he explained his point, "As an emissary of the First, I was gifted with the means to access that other world even without a Shadowmare like yours. If I open the Rift, then…we can save him, but Dante has to relinquish the power, otherwise his soul…it's going to be destroyed."
"Not on my watch," Jason growled, his confidence and strength for his ex-brother surprising the others as he looked to Hunter and commanded, "Open it!"
"So come on, Tom: let's finish this the way that we started it: TOGETHER!"
Then, to the shock and disbelief of the Dark Lord, Death began to transform: his skin seemed to become consumed by blackness and fire that spawned around him, his eyes now fully blacked out while his hands seemed to extend, transforming into razor-sharp claws that shone like blades on the ends of his hands. His body seemed to grow to nearly ten feet in height, his skeleton showing through his flesh before it was enveloped by a long black shadow that flowed over Dante's body like a rushing river.
Once he was covered from head-to-foot, Dante's face became enveloped by a black hood beneath which only two shimmering emerald orbs could be seen, a pair of huge metallic wings with dagger-like wing tips sprouted from his back. As a final mark of his power, Dante lifted one of his clawed hands and took a hold of his scythe, the power flowing freely through him and around him, shaking the world of the Horsemen and, opposite him, startling and frightening Tom Riddle as he looked upon the creature that had been spawned opposite him.
"A Demon," he whispered, the response from the demon opposite him being a deep rattling hiss that seemed to freeze every ounce of energy in the air, before, with a screech like that of a giant dragon, the demon flew forwards, slicing the scythe through the air. Dodging the attack, Voldemort fired off a Killing Curse, but, like his previous attempts, the curse was swallowed by shadows, the emerald orbs of the demon's eyes fixed on Voldemort as it lifted one of its hands, the shadows of its cloak now whipping outwards like tendrils and wrapping themselves around Riddle's body.
Clenching his fist, Dante's new form seemed to command the power of the shadows as the wrappings crushed Tom's arms and legs, the pain erupting inside the Dark Lord as he screamed in fury, firing off a few more curses that were easily deflected by the darkness.
"What are you?" Demanded Voldemort, using his own dark magic to heal his wounds as he staggered to his feet, "I will not die here, Black: you may have hidden your identity, but I will finish what I started…DIE!"
Swirling his wand through the air, Voldemort summoned a giant serpent from the flames around them, using his magic to guide the snake as it was formed from the complex art of Fiendfyre; when the snake's power collided with Dante's darkened form, the Horseman let out a scream of his own, but he didn't weaken. Instead, he seemed to become consumed by the flames and, when the Dark Lord released the snake, he laughed coldly as he asked, "Is that all, whimpering child? Is that all that the Big Lord Death can do? I am the true power over Death and I will defeat it again."
"Do you know what?" asked Dante, his voice deep and gravelly as he seemed to emerge from the flames, his body now dressed in a skin-tight leather suit and jacket that clung to his frame with a sense of symbiosis with its commander. His dark skin and clawed hands were gone and, in their place, Dante was now a winged monstrosity of his former self: his hands were replaced by clawed skeletal talons and his face…it was no longer human. Instead, there was now just a skull that seemed to be enveloped by emerald-green flames, the image of the demon opposite Voldemort sending the Dark Lord stumbling back while Dante growled out, "You talk too much, Riddle."
"How?" Roared Voldemort, firing off another blast of Fiendfyre, but his rage turned into fear when Dante opened the jaws of his skull and swallowed the flames, the power only adding to him as he lifted his hand and summoned his scythe, coating its blade in the flames that surrounded his skull.
"Tasty," laughed Dante, swooping towards Voldemort and, once again, missing him by inches with the scythe; when Voldemort retreated, Dante turned and hissed, "But not as tasty as your soul…believe me, I know! Now, I will taste it again and you, Riddle, will die!"
With a flare of his left hand, Dante summoned a circle of flames that sealed him in with Voldemort, the eyes of the Dark Lord wide with new fear as Dante approached, his voice coming out in a menacing, demonic laugh, "Nowhere to run, Riddle: you're mine!"
Turning to face the source of the voice, Dante's eye-sockets widened as he saw Hermione, Taren, Luna and, the biggest surprise of all, Jason standing on the edge of the circle, Hunter Redgrave standing with them, each of them looking upon him with horror as Hermione gasped, "What…what is that?"
"That," answered Hunter, summoning a shield to protect them from the attacks that could come their way, "Is the true form of the Horsemen: the true Rider: Dante…you…you've found it."
"Get them out of here," roared Dante, summoning a blaze of flames to keep Voldemort away from his former companions. With the Dark Lord trapped in the flames, Dante moved through the circle and glared at each of the newcomers, "This isn't your place: it's mine!"
A sharp snap sounded from Dante's jawbone as Jason smacked him, wincing from the pain of the flames that enveloped Dante's skull; as Hunter healed the wound, Jason snarled, "What did you think was going to happen? You give up on them so easily that they just let you die? No, Dante, you're going to survive this…you're not a monster."
"Says you!" snarled Dante, fixing his jawbone back into place as he hissed at Jason, "You made me do this: you turned me into this…this evil; now it will end and you'll finally have your wish, Jason Potter: me…gone!"
"And what about your parents?" asked Jason hotly, his voice stronger than it had ever been in the presence of his ex-brother, "What about your new baby brother? Are you going to abandon them just because you have to become Death? No, Dante, you're not Death: hell, you're not even Dante: deep down, still beneath all that darkness and Slytherin bravado, you're still Harry James Potter, my…my big brother and if you think I'm going to let you abandon us again…you can think again. This isn't how it ends, Dante: you're meant to leave here, have your life back and emerge victorious over everything you have thrown against you. You don't become a monster…that…that's someone else's job."
"And we're not leaving," Hermione added, her fear for the thing that was her Chosen overpowered by her love for him, "Because we stand together, Dante: we may not be Horsemen anymore, but we're still kin: you, me, Taren and Luna and, yes, if he chooses it now, Jason as well. So let go of this: give me back the Dante that I love."
"I…" Dante turned away from them, his voice laced with regret as he looked to the fiery vortex that sealed Voldemort inside, "I don't have a choice: this is my fate."
"Fate schmate," Jason growled, "You're the Boy that defies Death, not becomes him: you overpowered Death itself so many times that you do have a choice: you're…you're the Master of Death, Dante…and…and I'm sorry…I shouldn't have turned my back on you…I should have helped you, big brother. So don't you give up on yourself, because there are people here that aren't ready to give up on you."
"Jason…" Dante growled, looking back to his ex-brother, but instead of seeing a hope for deception or making Dante accept this, the Horseman only saw sincerity and, for a second, Dante actually thought that he saw a tear roll down Jason's cheek, the bright turquoise blue of those eyes reflecting in the darkness of Dante's eyes. He was telling the truth…and that seemed to warm Dante more than any fire ever could.
Suddenly, Dante doubled over in pain, his fires igniting to new heights of strength and force as he felt like his soul was burning inside him. Avoiding his friends and his ex-brother, Dante stumbled back through the flames, his eyes on the spot where Voldemort was still trapped, but there, next to him, stood a familiar dark-suit-wearing, white-haired, cold-eyed figure that watched Dante with loathing and hatred.
"You have what you want, Death," snarled the First, his eyes on Dante as he hissed out his words, "And yet you throw away the power: for this? For one who turned his back on you? Then if you shall not oblige our agreement, your soul will burn and you will be mine by force."
"I don't think so," Hunter snarled, leaping through the flames and, charging towards the First, he plunged his katana through his chest, a gasp escaping the First's lips as his body seemed to glow with black light that travelled through the katana and into Hunter, the once-emissary of the First hissing to him, "I serve only Lord Death…I serve Dante!"
Then, with a loud scream, the First exploded in a shower of blackness, the remains being pushed into Hunter, who rose and, turning to Dante, he lifted his katana once, severing the burning feeling inside Dante's soul.
"There," he remarked, "Now finish it, Dante…and you will have your freedom."
"What did…" Dante began, but stopped when he saw an object flying to him through the circle; extending his hand, Dante gasped as he saw his flesh returning, his skin now paling with the full power of the Horsemen that coursed through his body as he grabbed the object. Looking down, Dante saw a silvery hilt with a ruby in the pommel, the words Godric Gryffindor written across the blade.
"Only a real hero is worthy of that," Jason exclaimed, watching as the sword's blade became enveloped in white flames, the same flames now surrounding Dante like an aura, "And that hero was never me: now…Dante…do what you promised: finish him."
"With pleasure," Dante growled, hefting the sword before, with a powerful lunge, he seemed to fly on wings of light and darkness through the flames, the sword's edge shining brightly as Dante plunged the sword into the black heart of Lord Voldemort, the eyes of the Dark Lord widening as he looked into the black eyes of the Horseman. "You can't live in fear, Riddle: in the end…Death conquers all."
Voldemort's body began to crackle and spit with the energy that rushed through the blade, his skin peeling away as steam rose from him, his robes catching fire and smoking heavily, his eyes on Dante all the while as he whispered one word, "Live…"
Then, in a bright explosion of fire and magic, Lord Voldemort exploded, the last remnant of his soul flying across to Hunter's blade where it was absorbed into the metal. At the same time, the circle of flames died down allowing Dante to reach his friends, each of them embracing one another before the two ex-brothers faced one another, Dante laying the Sword of Gryffindor at his feet, before he rose and, facing Jason, he seemed to wait for something.
Jason, on the other hand, approached his ex-brother and, meeting his eyes, he sniffed once before he lowered his head and whispered, "I'm sorry…Harry."
Dante, looking once to Hunter, nodded his head before he embraced Jason, the young Potter Heir sobbing into Dante's clothes as the Horseman whispered, "Harry forgives you…and so do I."
As the two embraced one another, Hunter smiled once and lifted his hand, calling on his new power to remove the seal from Dante, which also removed the taint of evil from inside him that had been born through hatred and spite. Now, two brothers were reunited and, even though they were distant families, Hunter Redgrave, the new Master of the First Powers, knew that such a revelation wouldn't change their future.
With help from Hunter, the four students as well as Jason Potter returned to Grimmauld Place where they found James and Elizabeth and Kassie sharing drinks with Sirius, Remus and Lily, a clearing of the throat from the new First indicating their presence. When Lily and James met the eyes of the boys they'd brought into the world, they felt a light return to them that had been gone for so long, Lily forsaking everything and running towards her blood-sons and embracing both of them, kissing both of them while she wept for their return.
"Dante…" Sirius began, but stopped when Dante raised his hand.
"You don't have to say anything, Dad," Dante explained, releasing his ex-brother before he approached James, his eyes locked onto his birth-father with a sense of foreboding, before the expression changed into one of calm acceptance as he explained, "And neither do you: I forgive him, but if you want my forgiveness, you'll do one thing for me…Lord Potter."
"What?" asked James, surprised at the formality of the young Black Prince; nonetheless, he watched as Jason and Dante shared a glance before Dante answered him.
"I would be honoured if you would become my little brother's godfather…and allow Jason and I to become blood-brothers."
James only had to look to his son's eyes to give his answer, "Yes…and Dante?"
"So am I," Dante replied, returning to Jason where the two shared a high-five and a laugh, both of them appearing to have put the past behind them.
Back with Sirius, James heaved a sigh before he told his old friend, "They really did care for one another…and they still do: by the way, Sirius, you know the Marauders are still one short?"
"Is that so…Prongs?" asked Sirius, earning a laugh from James while Remus held both of them together, the three of them reunited like old times as the team of friends and family enjoyed each other's company.
At 11:59pm on Halloween Night, Lily Black gave birth not only to a son, but a daughter as well, the fact that she'd been carrying twins surprising every member of the extended family as Dante congratulated his Mother and Father, James still honoured to accept his godfather's title while Sirius had resumed his place as Jason and now Kassie's godfather.
Michael Hunter Black had his Father's black hair and a slightly stronger shade of green eyes than his Mother's that were more like viridian; his middle name was given in thanks to the force that had saved Dante from his darkness and helped reunite two now-blood-brothers.
As for the twin sister, she was named Christy Artemis Black, the middle name coming from the Black's tradition of astronomical names, though this one came from a Greek Goddess and, unlike her brother, she had her Mother's red hair with bright, almost illuminating, violet eyes that were filled with innocence and cheekiness.
As the new parents were congratulated, Dante walked out of the Hogwarts Hospital Wing and made his way down to the Defence Professor's office where he found Hunter standing at his desk, packing the last of his things into his cases. After becoming the First, which was a process that only a weapon of the Netherworld could perform – like his katana or Dante's scythe had he wanted it – Hunter had handed the Defence Position to James Potter while Sirius had become a Duelling Instructor, both of which were positions approved by Dumbledore on the condition that he leaves them alone. Voldemort was dead and the fate of the young teens and their families were now their own.
"I was wondering when you would get here," Hunter remarked, turning to face Dante, who inclined his head in response, which amused Hunter as he added, "Don't bow to me, Dante: if it wasn't for your courage, I may never have become the First."
"I just wanted to say thank you," Dante explained, looking to Hunter with renewed respect, "For everything: most of all for saving my life and my soul, but thanks…however, I have a question."
"Concerning the unfinished business of your parents' legacies?" asked Hunter, earning a nod from Dante; he wasn't surprised that the man could read his mind: he was the First after all. Packing away his robes, Hunter took a deep breath before he explained, "Michael and Christy will gain the nobility of Azkaban and command the Dementors when they turn eighteen; at that time, I'll have one of my emissaries come and help them, but, until then, Azkaban will be watched by me. Your parents, like you, have lost their powers and passed them onto the twins, but unlike you, they won't be drawn into the darkness: for them, it's like the old saying, there is no good or evil…"
"There is only power," Dante finished, heaving a sigh before he nodded once and added, "Hunter…why did you do it? Become the First, I mean?"
"To save you," Hunter explained, turning to face Dante and, placing a hand on his shoulder, he continued, "Your blood-brother convinced me that you weren't beyond saving and your friends reminded me of why I kept an eye on you to begin with. So, as the First, I had the means to release them and you from the powers inside you so that you could make your own destiny. I've also taken the Stone from Hermione and removed your links to the scythe and their Horses: Luna can keep the Elder Wand and Neville has the Cloak: you now hold the Sword that you slew Voldemort with and that will stay with you. As for Hermione, the bond between you will remain: you and her are joined together until the day you die at which time, I'll come for you…and we'll depart as friends."
"Like the legend," Dante laughed, before he looked up suddenly as he asked, "Hang on, did you say their Horses?"
"You heard that, did you?" asked Hunter, smiling slyly as he nodded past Dante, who turned and, as he did, he gasped when he saw Ragnarok, decked out in reins and a glossy white coat with black highlights, his eyes now a deep shade of green that matched Dante's. "I figured you deserved a reward for your work, Dante: he's yours and your family's until the End…"
"Thank…" Dante began, but stopped when he turned back only to find the classroom empty, the only sign of Hunter having been there being a parchment with the symbol of the Horsemen and a message written underneath it;
Til next we meet…
"Dante?" Hermione's voice cut off any further thoughts as she called out to him, "Come on: Michael and Christy want to see their big brother!
"Coming!" Dante called, stroking Ragnarok's soft coat before he added, "You know, I think you deserve a new name: Ragnarok is too evil…so maybe…Orion."
'Orion?' asked the Shadowmare, his voice making Dante smile as that perk was still with him.
"Yeah," Dante remarked, leaving the office, before he turned and, looking to the desk, he smiled as he whispered his last words, "The Hunter…"
Then, he was gone as was Orion as he vanished through the shadows, leaving nothing but an empty classroom…
Chapter 15 and it's done: the End of The Four Horsemen and what an ending; a new First, the Horsemen free and Dante with twin siblings and reunited with his estranged family.
Thanks to everyone who has reviewed this story and kept it going to this intense conclusion and, I'll say it now, I'm SORRY for the obvious references in this chapter, but I wanted it to go out with a bang and now it has.
Enjoy my other works in progress and, as always, don't forget to read and review…