Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter.
"Hmmm. I think I see what you meant. This is quite vexing indeed." Dumbledore murmured, poring over a large scroll, which had been spread out over a table, every single inch of the parchment covered in runic symbols, depicting an incredibly complex and vast array.
"We've tried everything, Professor. We went over every single rune, every single possible arithmantic equation, but it just doesn't budge." Hermione grumbled, looking thoroughly agitated that she had admitted to a challenge she had taken on being truly beyond her.
"However we modify the array, we just can't seem to change the demands even the slightest bit. It is, truly, impossible." Luna said, sitting calmly beside Hermione, who shot her an irritated look.
"It's not impossible! There has to be something-"
"I'm afraid that Ms. Lovegood is correct, Ms. Granger. There really does not seem to be a way to make it any better than it is." Dumbledore said quietly, peering at her over his half moon spectacles.
Hermione gave a disgruntled sigh. "Oh alright whatever."
Dumbledore smothered a smile at her petulant behavior. "There is no need to fret Ms. Granger, and there is certainly no need to consider this failure as a sign of inadequacy. If anything, I would say that the fact that you managed to eke out even this much of an improvement is quite an achievement."
"You're just saying that to make me feel better Professor." Hermione grumbled.
"Not true Hermione. Lily Potter was considered to be one the most brilliant witches ever born, and Professor Flitwick has mentioned quite a few times to us that she was the one person who he felt would be an ideal Ravenclaw, and that she was smart enough to maybe give Rowena Ravenclaw herself a run for her money."
"Quite true Ms Lovegood. She was a certified genius I believe, and I have no doubt that if not for her untimely death and the state of our world during her time, she would have grown up to be quite a legend. The fact that she created this is proof in and of itself." Dumbledore said, gesturing over the scroll.
Hermione reluctantly nodded and slumped in her chair. "Alright fine."
Dumbledore smiled and turned back to the scroll, now frowning in concentration. "Coming back to our problem here, I find that I agree with your assessment. I do believe this is the best we can do."
"But Professor, don't you understand? This means that-"
"All power comes at a cost, Hermione, and sometimes, to gain something, you also have to experience a loss." Luna said quietly.
"Quite right, Ms. Lovegood, and for what we need done I, personally, would be be very willing to pay the price required." Dumbledore said grimly.
Hermione immediately grew alarmed. "Professor!"
"We will discuss this further when everyone is present. For now, I will keep trying to find a way around this, but I doubt I can."
Hermione looked like she desperately wanted to argue the point, but then she finally sighed, realizing that he had apparently already made his decision.
"Alright, see what you can do."
"I shall. Now, I believe you and Ms. Lovegood should be heading back to Grimmauld."
Hermione nodded as she stood up and headed to the fireplace, Luna following her. "Thank you Professor."
Harry Potter sighed as he looked at the man sitting across him. "And you're sure there is no other way?"
Hermione and the rest of his friends were also present, along with Sirius.
"None, Harry." Dumbledore said calmly. "I have tried everything, and none of it has made the slightest difference. As such, I have come to accept that what must be done, must be done."
"Hang on Albus, why does it have to be you, though?" Sirius asked. "Anybody can power it, right? So why you?"
Dumbledore sighed. Plucking his glasses off, he rubbed the bridge of his nose, leaning back in his chair. In that moment, he looked, once again, like a tired old man that had suffered through the world for far too long.
"Because, Sirius, I cannot in good conscience ask anyone else to pay for my mistakes. And Tom Riddle is my mistake. I had always suspected what he might become, what he might do. But I still wanted to give him a chance. I could have stopped him well before he truly became the Dark Lord Voldemort, but I stayed my hand, hoping to give him a chance at redemption. That chance, Sirius, has cost this world far too much. It is time he answers for his crimes, and I pay for my mistakes."
Sirius still didn't look too sure. "That's well and good Albus, but I still think that you don't have to be so hasty. I mean, I'm sure we can figure out something else, right?"
"No Sirius, I'm afraid not. And besides, there is also this injury of mine." Dumbledore shook back his sleeve, exposing his blackened and cursed hand. "You know that my time is finite. I would much rather prefer to go on to the next great adventure on my own terms, than lying helpless in a bed. Would you permit an old man this much?"
There was silence in the library of Grimmauld Place as everyone considered his words. Despite wanting to argue, they did realize that it was completely his choice. And there was truth in his words too.
"I still don't fully agree with this Albus." Sirius said, shaking his head sadly. "But I'll go along with it, if only because you ask."
"Thank you for understanding, Sirius." Dumbledore said, standing up. "Now, if you will all excuse me, I need to head back to Hogwarts. The term begins tomorrow, and quite a few things still have to be arranged."
With that, he strode out of the library.
Ginny turned to the others and sighed. "Well he seems to have made his decision."
"For the record, I'm still not very happy with this." Sirius said, scowling.
"None of us are, Sirius. But it is his decision in the end. If he really wants to do this, who are we to stop him?" Hermione asked.
"And he has good reasons too. I would do the same if I were in his position." Harry added quietly.
"Me too, pup." Sirius sighed. "Me too."
Suddenly, the silence was broken when a loud crack resounded through the room.
"Master Harry Potter Sir!" Dobby squeaked, falling into a ridiculously low bow in front of a surprised Harry.
"Yes sir! Dobby is wanting to report that Dobby has been finding the Diadem sir!"
And with a few words Dobby suddenly turned around the melancholy mood.
"You finally found it? Where?" Sirius asked excitedly.
"Hogwarts, sir, in the Come and Go Room." Dobby replied.
"Come and Go... wait that's the Room of Requirement! You mean that there was a Horcrux there all this time?" Ron asked a stupefied expression on his face. "How come we never came across it?"
"It's probably part of the Room's magic." Hermione mused. "If Voldemort hid it there he probably knew how the Room's magic worked, and made it so that you couldn't just ask the Room to give it to you."
"Who cares how we didn't find it before? We know where it is now! Let's just rid of it!" Ginny exclaimed.
"Wait a second Ginny, don't be so hasty." Sirius said, holding up his hands. "Let's inform Dumbledore first. It would be much safer to have him along."
"Yeah that's a good idea." Harry said, nodding, and then turned to Dobby. "Dobby can you do that right away?"
"Yes Master Harry Potter Sir! Dobby is going now!" Dobby squeaked, before bowing and vanishing with a pop.
"Yeah that's alright, but can we come this time?" Ginny pleaded.
"There's no real need for us to go though." Luna pointed out.
"Well... yeah, but still!"
"I don't think it's wise. Voldemort's Horcruxes have a tendency of having nasty surprises in store, and it could get very dangerous very fast." Hermione reasoned.
"The Cup was easy enough." Neville pointed out.
"That was because we went through the 'correct' method of getting it." Sirius said. "If I hadn't inherited Bellatrix's vaults we would probably have had to fight through the entirety of Gringotts, a dragon and the protections on the vault to get to it."
"Oh. But the Locket-"
"There's probably a story behind that too, but I don't know what." Sirius shook his head. "Look, what I'm trying to say is, I don't want to take needless risks. You guys agreed to this too."
"Alright fine! We get Sirius!" Harry said rolling his eyes.
"Good. And it's too late to do anything about it tonight anyway. You lot better get to bed; we don't want Molly throwing a fit if we don't manage to wake up early." Sirius said, standing up.
"Yeah yeah alright." Ginny grumbled.
Lord Voldemort was brooding.
Understandable, really, considering how the past few weeks had gone.
He had always had such lofty expectations, such high hopes for his quest for attaining dominion over the world.
His defeat at the hand of the toddler Harry Potter had definitely put a kink in his plans, but he had endured.
After thirteen long years of waiting, he had finally been resurrected, as strong as ever and ready to take on the world. Things had started to go his way again.
And then that battle at the Ministry had taken place.
Ever since then, it seemed everything he was did, went awry.
First, he had lost Nagini.
Then he had lost several of his best lieutenants with nothing to show for it.
After that, the Ministry had finally started retaliating against his Death Eaters.
He had lost the support of many of the Dark Creatures he had recruited.
Most of the raids his people went on failed.
His assault on Azkaban had ended up as a complete disaster, and he had barely escaped with his life.
And now, his body seemed to be failing him.
Mere hours ago, he had felt unimaginable pain sear through him, feeling like his very soul was on fire. The agony was so great that he had, to his eternal shame, lost consciousness.
He briefly wondered if that was how the victims of his Cruciatus Curse felt, before shoving that thought away.
Even after he had come too, he felt weak somehow.
Incomplete. Yes that was it. He felt incomplete, hollow. As if a great part of him was missing, but he had no idea what.
His magic was also feeling rather… lethargic.
The raging rapids that he always felt when he touched it had slowed down to a moderately fast drift. It was still far stronger compared to most other wizards, but pretty pathetic for him.
This could not be allowed.
He would not tolerate his own body betraying his ambitions.
He knew, he just knew, that it was all somehow the fault of his bane, Harry Potter. Him, and that meddlesome old fool of a Headmaster, Dumbledore.
He should have eliminated them, the only real obstacles in his path to victory, long ago, but events had always conspired against him.
But no more.
He would gather his strength again, and he would strike back.
This time, he would take down those two, and then the rest of the world would be free for him to claim.
The only real question was, when?
By now, Potter would probably be back at Hogwarts, protected by its powerful ancient wards, and so would Dumbledore.
As he considered his options, the answer suddenly seemed to leap out at him.
Of course, that was it!
It would be a day when the boy would probably be away from the castle, and out in the open just begging to be attacked.
There would be nothing whatsoever to protect Potter from Lord Voldemort's wrath.
And when Dumbledore would show up to avenge Potter, Voldemort would defeat him too for the last time.
And then, victory would be his!
Yes, it really was the perfect time.
After all, what better day to accomplish his quest, than the day he had been defeated for the very first time?
Yes, Halloween would be the day it would all end.
Okay, so that's another chapter there.
For those who didn't get it from his monologue, the last Horcrux is now gone, and Voldemort is mortal again. I apologize to those who were looking for another adventurous defeat of a Horcrux for the Diadem, but I just couldn't come up with anything, not when Dumbledore is still Headmaster and can just stroll down to the RoR and destroy it.
Also, sorry that the short length of this chapter was much smaller than usual, but I wanted to keep the whole of the battle together.
Anyway, sometime next week, Halloween comes around, and with it, Harry has his final showdown with his mortal foe.
Hope you enjoyed this!