It was fitting that the final battle, the battle to end all battles, should take place at the ministry of magic. It had all begun as politics, and it should end there as well. The death toll was staggering, on both sides, and it was a long bloody affair. Harry Potter was twenty-one years old, working as an Auror at the ministry, when everything finally erupted and the beginning of the end came to pass. He thanked Merlin consistently that he had advanced Auror training before it all started because, bloody hell, he wouldn't have survived ten minutes had it happened while he was still in school.
Harry took down another Death Eater with a silent Avada Kedavra, long past the point of caring whether he was using the Unforgivables or not; it was certainly folly to adhere to laws during a battle whilst the other side was not. He stopped for a moment to wipe the sweat off his brow, using the back of the hand holding Gryffindor's sword to so. Part of his intensive Auror training involved many kinds of hand-to-hand combat, chief among them sword play. When he pulled his hand away he was surprised to see blood smeared on his hand instead of dirt. The horrible pain that shot through his forehead at that moment let him know that the blood was his own. He couldn't remember being hit.
"Harry! Harry, watch out!" Without thinking, Harry ducked, and felt the tell-tale whoosh of air that meant a spell had whizzed past his head. It was a very close call, and he sent Hermione a wave of thanks for the warning after he took out the Death Eater (Igor Karkaroff, Harry noted with surprise) who had sent the curse his way in the first place. Harry honestly wasn't sure what spell he had used. He found a year before that he could make things happen simply by willing, or wishing, them to. He tried not to use the ability often, as it frightened people, but as he watched his would-be-murderer disappear in a cloud of purple smoke he decided he was very grateful he was able to do it.
Harry caught sight of Albus and Remus fighting back to back, and was momentarily in awe at the sight. They were a formidable team, each picking up slack where the other left off, moving in perfect sync with one-another.
"Harry Potter…I've been searching for you."
Harry had been waiting for this moment. He had been waiting in anticipation, almost hopeful, because one way or another he wanted this war to end. Either he or Voldemort would die this day, and the fate of everything would be taken off his shoulders. Whether he lived or died, this day was the day he had been waiting for since he was fifteen and learned of the prophesy.
The fight began. No one stopped to watch, but everyone was aware that their fates would be decided by the end of this match. They watched out of the corners of their eyes, hearts racing, no one truly certain what the outcome would be. The fight didn't last long, as one would expect of a fight to decide the fates of so many, but it was brutal nonetheless and each wizard displayed his finest spellmanship. If anyone were to stop and watch, they would have been awed and amazed at the sheer gracefulness of the fight, for it looked as if they were dancing together they were so in tune with each other.
In the end, Harry Potter defeated Lord Voldemort by a well-placed blow to the heart with Gryffindor's sword and a Confringo spell to the temple. Harry felt Tom Riddle's blood spatter onto his face as the man's – no, thing's – skull exploded in a gruesome display similar to that of a water balloon popping. Harry took a very strong laceration curse to his side as a result of getting that close to his target, but Tom Riddle was officially dead and the elation, the pure sense of unbridled freedom, Harry felt far outweighed the pain.
He dropped to one knee, holding his side and almost shedding tears from sheer joy. He looked around and noticed that nearly every Death Eater was dead. He saw Ron take out Crabbe senior and spared a moment to be grateful his friend was still alive and well. Looking around he saw Remus standing over Bellatrix Lestrange's body, a fitting end as she had been the one to kill his best friend. Dumbledore was alive as well, and Kingsley, Fred, George, Bill, Mr. and Mrs. Weasely. Harry's heart swelled.
And then he saw Hermione and Lucius Malfoy still waging battle, and he gasped. Hermione tripped and was falling backwards into an extremely familiar veil. Quicker than he thought possible, Harry dashed to Malfoy, who was actually rather close, sliced him in the neck with Gryffindor's sword, and grabbed Hermione's hand which was the only visible part of her body.
His momentum, though, was too great and the added weight of Hermione falling combined to pull him forward, face first into the veil. He heard several voices, Severus' chief among them, call out his name as he fell but there was nothing he could do to stop himself. The momentum all but threw him in and before he knew it all that was familiar to him was gone.
He wasn't sure what he'd expected falling through the veil would be like. Merlin knew he'd imagined it many times when he thought back to the death of his beloved godfather, but certainly his imagination hadn't come close to this oppressive darkness, the overwhelming dark pressure that was thick and oily so that he felt if he should breathe it would seep into his lungs and choke the life out of him from the inside.
Breathe he did, however, when his mind started to fog from lack of oxygen and he knew he was seconds from losing consciousness. He was surprised when nothing ill happened, and took deep, greedy breaths to make up for the loss of precious air he'd had out of fear. He noticed at that moment that he could no longer feel Hermione's hand in his own and he began to panic. His Auror training was all that kept him from losing his cool, but as he took the extra effort to calm his rapidly beating heart he wish with all he had to find his lost friend and, just like that, the blackness receded and he was tossed forward as if being ejected out of a cannon.
He saw blinding light and a lot of green before his head hit something hard and he was in darkness once more.
Harry's head was cloudy and he wasn't sure where he was. He felt confused, but he knew the voice that was persistently calling out his name, piercing the thick fog that permeated his mind.
"Harry, wake up!" Hermione whispered urgently, shaking his shoulder.
"Hermione? What's going on?" He still hadn't opened his eyes, but he could tell through his eyelids that wherever they were it was outdoors. The light filtering in through his closed eyelids was bright, and he could feel that he was lying on a soft plant of some sort. He assumed it was grass, but it was plush and softer than any he'd ever felt before. He could hardly tell it was grass he was on, in fact.
"Harry, something's happened," Hermione said, pulling Harry into a sitting position. He blinked, taking in the lush forest surrounding him. He reached up to rub his eyes, forgetting momentarily that he didn't wear glasses anymore and thus trying to lift them before he remembered. This certainly wasn't the Department of Mysteries.
"Clearly," Harry deadpanned.
"Now's not the time, Harry, I've set up a surveillance spell around the area and it just told me someone is coming. Harry, I don't think we are in our own dimension right now. I-"
"What? What the blood hell do you mean, not in – " Harry cut her off, exasperated.
"Don't talk over me, Harry. I'll explain later, once we are out of danger." The urgency in Hermione's voice was clear, and Harry snapped to attention, remembering that Hermione had gotten him out of many horrid situations and he certainly trusted her.
"Let me do the talking, at least until I can assess the situation. I've read about other realms before, and I have a small inkling of what it might be like here." Hermione suddenly turned her head to the left and a terrified look crossed her face. Harry could see her clenching her wand down hidden at her side, and groped around for his. He couldn't find it, and he nearly panicked again before his training set in and he remembered to control his breathing.
"They're almost here," Hermione said, and within moments she was proven correct. They were surrounded in an instant, though neither of them heard so much as the crackling of a fallen leaf to betray the presence of the people around them. Harry and Hermione found themselves at the tips of at least seven arrows. Hermione clenched Harry's wrist to stop him from jumping to defend them.
"State your names, strangers," said one of the men and Harry turned to look at him. He was tall and clearly muscular, with long, thick blonde hair and skin altogether too perfect for a man to possess. He was wearing a grey hooded cloak, and had a quiver full of bows strapped to his back as well as a long sword at his side. He was certainly intimidating, but Harry couldn't help but find him rather handsome as well. His blue eyes were piercing, and held a certain intelligence that was obvious to all.
"This is Haren, son of Jamison, of Godric's Hollow. I am his sister, Hereswith," Hermione said, not looking in the man's eyes, but rather at his feet.
"What business have you here in Lothlórien?" the man said, never lowering his bow.
"We were travelling, sir. Where we know not. Our village was destroyed and we are all that remains. We got lost, and my brother fell and hit his head on that rock over there," Hermione said, pointing to the large rock to their left that still had Harry's blood on it.
Harry didn't know what to do but remain silent. He was lucky that he was adept at schooling his features because otherwise he was sure he would be gaping at these people like a particularly large and obtuse fish. He's seen many things in his years living amongst wizards, but this capped everything he'd experienced thus far.
"Why is your brother silent? Is he ill of the mind?" the man asked, eyeing Harry with skepticism.
"No, sir, but he only just woke up. The injury to his head was great, and it caused him to lose consciousness for a time. He is injured, sir, and the blood loss has made him confused." Hermione squeezed Harry's hand again to keep him from speaking, though the gesture wasn't necessary. Harry was still too flabbergasted to say anything, and what Hermione had told the man wasn't entirely untrue. He did feel woozy from the blackout and the blood loss, and it was all he could do to follow what was happening around him.
The men surrounding them, at a silent gesture from the person who spoke, lowered their weapons until they were pointed at the ground instead of at Harry and Hermione, and Harry had to resist uttering a sigh of relief. He hadn't realized exactly how tense he was until their bows were facing elsewhere.
The man walked closer to him and then knelt to examine Harry. Without asking permission, he reached up to Harry's face and lifted one eyelid and then the next, staring thoughtfully into his eyes as he did so.
"You have lost much blood, and need time to recover before you journey on. I cannot allow you to stay here in these lands without bringing you to speak with my lady, and for that I apologize." Harry liked the way the man's voice sounded. It was deep and soft at the same time, and it reminded him of a mountain breeze. The man was graceful, too, which he proved as he grabbed Harry's hand and rose swiftly to his feet, pulling Harry along with him.
Harry had to grab the man's shoulder for balance when his vision tunneled at the sudden change, and when his head cleared he gave him an apologetic smile and let go.
"I am Haldir, and these are my brothers and comrades. We shall escort you to the elven Lady of Lórien, and she thence shall pass judgment on you, for I nor my brothers can tell your lineage and I learned long ago not to trust the word of one who appears to be of men."
Harry nearly fell over in shock when he heard the man say "elven", for his idea of an elf was a scraggly little thing wearing a pillow case, and these people were surely the complete opposite. He wisely kept his thoughts to himself, though, for he was certain that should he mention his astonishment he would be in more danger than he was already. He looked surreptitiously at the man's ears and noticed that they were indeed pointed like those of the elves of Muggle fiction. For the first time, as Hermione gripped his hand and they began following the elves through the forest, Harry wondered what he had gotten himself into.