The battle between Dumbledore and Voldemort.
Acknowledgements - The usual suspects (IP82, ChuckdaTruck, Sirius009, Nukular Winter and FairyQilan) plus some new additions to the crew (the talented in his own right Nonjon and the insightful CootiePatootie) helped shaped this chapter. I should also mention as a reminder that my version of Voldemort does not have Horcruxes. If he did, he would be unstoppable.
Chapter 21 - When Giants Roamed the Land
Susan was angry with herself. She lashed out at Harry for no reason other than the fact he was a convenient target. While she was sitting in a hospital bed berating herself for getting the stuffing knocked out of her, Harry was out trying to save Fred and Luna's lives.
She tried her Occlumency exercises with only moderate success. How her scatterbrained friend Hannah had ever gotten this was positively mind boggling, but then again Hannah had done so out of need. She wasn't going anywhere anytime soon, so she might as well do something while she was here. She focused on her mediation and breathing for several minutes. Susan found her emotional center and began the slow process of calming her mind to erect her nascent mental tripwires. A half formed layer began to come together as she fed it memories. Hannah said to always start with a happy layer. It makes no difference to the person attacking you, but you feel better as you construct your outer layers. Needing a bit of cheer, she fed it memories of her triumphs in life. Learning to ride a horse and a broom, flat out destroying her Ancient Runes OWL, and being held by Harry.
The healer had brought Susan her wand that was retrieved from the bank. She had felt slightly naked without her wand. She checked over her willow wand carefully. When she looked up the mediwitch had a rag and a small tin of wand polish.
"How did you know?" Susan asked amazed. The woman in front of her was awfully perceptive. Maybe she was like Hannah.
"It's a trade secret. They wouldn't want me to let you in on it." The mediwitch said with a wink. "Actually, it is quite common when a person has suffered a combat related injury. When separated from their wand for a length of time, they will go through a form of separation anxiety. We keep wand polish in all of our recovery rooms for this reason. There's a deep relationship between a witch and her wand."
Susan smiled and set about cleaning the soot and blemishes off of her wand. Impulsively, she thought of Harry's patronus lesson.
"Go ahead, I know you want to cast a spell."
"It's the second phase. First clean the wand and next cast a spell to prove that you are still magical. Your subconscious is trying to help you cope. So what spell are you going to cast, Susan?"
"I wanted to summon my patronus."
"Really, let me see."
"Expecto Patronum!" Her stallion was pretty misty, but still corporeal enough. It was great to have her wand back, but she was still in a hospital bed with crushed legs and a foot hanging on only by the skill of the healer who reattached it.
"Very pretty. Most people can barely generate a mist."
"I can't afford to be like most people." Susan said before she could stop herself.
"Why is that dear?" Her caregiver tilted her head and gave her a sideways glance.
"Because, I can't let Harry down. He's counting on me to be able to hold my own. Whether it's dementors, death eaters or effing stone gargoyles." Susan answered with a hint of frustration.
"Not setting the bar too high are you?" The mediwitch asked sarcastically.
"Making fun of your patients is not a good bedside manner." Susan changed to a glare.
"Just trying to get you through the anger phase. I can't work on your legs right now, so I might as well work on your head. Face the truth, Susan. You are always going to be a distraction to him. It's part of being in a relationship. Spouses, children, family and friends are all part of life, but they can be the biggest distractions in every sense of the word. From what the intern downstairs was saying, your engagement to Wizarding Britain's most eligible under twenty is a bit forced. If you are going to force him to accept you, then make damn sure that it is you that you are forcing on him. Trying to get him to accept a stranger and you are both going to struggle accepting this woman you intend to be for him. Do you want him to want you or some Witch out of the legends?"
Feeling small Susan answered, "Me."
"Good. Then we won't have to find a parking spot for Babba Yaga's hut anytime soon. Skinny chicken legs always give me the woolies." Both women laughed at the mental image of the legendary Russian Crone's animated hut standing on its chicken legs next to the hospital. Being Muggleborn, Colleen thought it was the ultimate in magical Recreational Vehicles when she did a report on it back in her Hogwart's days.
"What if I don't know who the real me is yet?"
"Then you are just like the rest of us, deary. Merlin, I'm still trying to figure out how my life got so messed up."
"Thanks for cheering me up."
"Anytime. Now, I am going back downstairs. If you need anything tap that touchstone with your wand and I'll come back up. Read some magazines, I think you and your young man are featured in that one. Cast a few spells, but don't blow anything up please. The custodial staff isn't aware of this floor. So, I'd have to fix it and believe me - I am much better at fixing people then furniture."
Against the backdrop of the screams of the injured and the dying, Voldemort began to trade curses with Albus Dumbledore. In previous battles they would talk and taunt each other. Tonight there was no need for such foreplay.
"/Contrico Tonare/!" An azure bolt of raw magical energy burst from his yew wand.
"/Contego Veneficus/!" Dumbledore's mage shield scattered the blast of crackling energy. Wordlessly, his enemy returned an /Attrero Glacies/. The same spell from the far east that he had used to kill an acromantula moments ago. Obviously the ancient relic did his share of world traveling as well. Far better to dodge than waste time and energy by erecting a fire shield.
He felt one of the ice shards ricochet off of his unicorn hide vest as he rolled underneath the barrage. He responded with the killing curse. A dismissive wave of Dumbledore's wand banished a rock into its path, stopping the curse and pulverizing the rock.
"Pedestrian Tom. I had hoped for better from you. / Invito Volatillis Leo/!" The dispersing cloud of dust allowed his enemy the time to complete a complex gesture as Dumbledore transfigured a tree stump into a winged lion. As the lion took to the air, Dumbledore dodged his return fire and cast a mirror image spell so that it looked like two winged lions were speeding towards him.
Voldemort had to admit the geriatric fossil was a crafty wizard. At the distance and rate of speed, he would have to concentrate to discern which was the illusion and which was the actual creature. Dumbledore wasn't about to allow him that moment to concentrate on unraveling the subterfuge. He cast his fire whip above him. Even conjured and transfigured animals feared fire. The illusion would not. As he anticipated, one of the creatures balked and roared in pain as the whip scorched its skin and severed one of its wings. The monster dropped to the ground proving that even injured magical felines land on their feet. The killing curse eliminated the threat posed by the creature completely.
"/Corpus Inflatus/!" Bellowed the Chief Warlock and the dead creature's body exploded in a spray of gore. Voldemort vanished as much as he could, but some of the bone fragments ripped at his exposed flesh and tore holes in his cloak like birdshot from a muggle shotgun. He staggered backwards from the blast.
Amazed that the 'leader of the light' would actually use a bit of Necro magic against him, Voldemort suppressed a smile. The lion was never meant injure him, only to get close enough. Dumbledore must know that in a battle of raw power, the advantage goes to him. He was using guile and cunning instead. Ironically, this was the battle the Dark Lord had expected out of Alastor Moody back on Azkaban. It was time to remind the great Albus Dumbledore just who is Slytherin's heir. He would need to get closer to his prey.
Harry descended the steps from the Ravenclaw girl's dormitories. He had Ginny's promise of silence and cooperation. The Ravenclaw common room had a less 'cozy' atmosphere than the Gryffindor common room. In his own house it was not uncommon to find students chatting or listening to a wireless set. This place on the other hand seemed like some kind of extension of the library or a mausoleum. Either way, Harry didn't like it.
He walked up to Hermione and Ron and sat down on the elegant, but slightly uncomfortable couch. "Did you and Ginny straighten things out? Do I need to go up there?" Hermione asked.
"Yes, we straightened things out. We're good. She's going to help me with a project. Don't give me that look, you are already checking over everything I want to show the DA this year. So is this everything you always wanted in a common room?" Harry smiled at his friends and changed the subject. He had to let them know that Ginny was doing something for him. There would be more questions otherwise. Hermione had her feet resting comfortable in Ron's lap while reading a book. Ron was holding a dueling magazine just above his girlfriend's toes. She smiled at Harry and kicked Ron's magazine playfully, interrupting his reading.
"Would you be surprised if I said it looks a bit too bookish and cold?"
"That's what I said too mate. I guess five years with us has finally corrupted her. Are you staying tonight? If not, you better get a move on. They seal the door in about fifteen minutes and don't open it until morning." Ron said raising his magazine a bit higher and shooting Hermione a dirty look. Harry was chuckling at the irony of Hermione breaking Ron's concentration. It was good to see two friends enjoying themselves. He got the distinct impression that this was their form of flirting with each other. It made him feel less dirty, less tainted. Hermione smiled sweetly at Ron and kicked his magazine again.
"I'll bunk here tonight." Harry said as Ron tickled Hermione's feet causing her to squeal. She pulled her legs back to her.
"Shouldn't, ah Ron quit! Shouldn't you firecall Susan. She'll be worried." Hermione said while kicking at Ron's hand. Ron responded by making a big show of opening his dueling magazine again.
"She's at St. Mungos." Harry said as quietly as he could. Ron closed his magazine.
"Harry! What happened? Is she okay?"
"She's fine. I just got back from seeing her. They still need to do some work on her, but they have to wait for a day or two. Did you hear about what happened at Gringotts this morning?"
"Yes it was on the wireless. Don't tell me she was there?"
"Yeah she was banged up pretty good."
Hannah and Chelsea came over immediately at the mention of Susan being injured. Harry gave what details he could remember. Rather than reveal the spell she used to destroy the gargoyle, he said she had used something her aunt had taught her. The group was suitably impressed that Susan had managed to take out a portion of the banks first line of defense. Harry asked that they remind her of that next time they see her. After about ten more minutes and repeating the tale once more for Lisa, Kevin, Terry and Mandy, Harry excused himself and headed towards the nearest available dorm room with an empty bed. He noticed as he was leaving that Hermione's feet had again worked themselves back into Ron's lap. Harry's happiness for his friends caused him not to note the calculating look on Hannah's face wondering what her best friend's fiancÃ©e was doing spending the last hour up in a dorm room with a girl that had just attempted to slip him a love potion a little over a week ago.
He opened the first room he thought was available and closed it just as fast. Apparently, Angelina was glad to have Fred back! Opening the door had breached the silencing charms and allowed him to understand just how enthusiastic she was. Fortunately, they had not seen him. Harry ended up in the fourth year boy's dormitory. It felt suddenly strange to not have Susan's warm body pressed up against him. He felt a little guilty that he was feeling frustrated while she was laying in a hospital bed. He remembered how Hermione always badgered him about how his frequent visits to the infirmary always unhinged her. He countered by reminding her of his daily visits during her unfortunate petrification. She told him that was her point exactly. It is almost as bad for the person visiting the injured person. He began to clear his mind and allow sleep to claim him. His scar started throbbing. Riddle was up to something.
Snape was pleased. It was a pity they hadn't been able convince Potter to violate the wards protection around the school. He set the pensieve memory on the central table. His master would be pleased. Perhaps, it was important enough to interrupt the meeting with the werewolves. He passed Pettigrew as he headed back towards the apparition point. The rat animagus gave him a quick nod of acknowledgement. 'A strange little fanatic,' Severus thought.
For a moment he entertained the notion of how different Pettigrew would have been in a different house. He was a natural born follower, who fell in with the wrong crowd. Potter, Black and Lupin had no idea what to do with a minion. If they had there would have been no betrayal, idiots.
At the apparition point he closed his eyes and concentrated on the location of the meeting. He felt a resistance to his movement. Something was wrong. Anti-apparition wards were in place at the destination. Severus ran back towards the main chamber. Pettigrew and six others were there.
"All of you grab brooms and follow me, now!"
"What is it Snape?" Pettigrew asked already in motion.
"There are anti-apparition wards up at the meeting site. I know an area we can portkey to that is only a few miles from there."
"Everyone grab this length of rope, I will create a portkey. The meeting point is roughly two miles from there, due north."
"Why not portkey directly there?" One of the younger recruits asked. Severus remembered that he was an idiot when he was a student and apparently the intervening years had not helped.
"Listen idiot. I don't have time for this. We portkey in there and either we are appearing in the middle of a trap or we surprise our master. Our master doesn't like surprises. If you live long enough you'll learn it. One final thing Sullivan, this isn't school anymore. You fuck up and I will personally kill you." Snape said casting the portkey spell and enjoying the young man's flinch.
To an outside observer the area around the burning wreckage of the barn was chaos. No werewolves remained alive. Less than five arcomantulas remained as they scuttled amongst the bodies stopping to feed on the dead. They gave a wide berth to the two dragons and the giant struggling. The great Aragog was no more. The agreements their lord had with the two-legged ones were now void. They headed into the woods, each of the spider children began would take their time getting back to the nest. When all of them arrived, they would fight until only one remained. That one would become the new spider-king.
Hagrid stepped over the remains of Walden McNair. It is one thing to believe you can wield an axe, when your victim is some chained up animal that some corrupt government official insisted on destroying, but it is another thing entirely to fight someone else who knows how to use an axe themselves. The death eater's weapon was too bulky for the smaller man to use effectively. Hagrid was stronger, faster and using a lighter weapon. The end was a foregone conclusion to Hagrid, who had fought hand to hand against full-blooded giants. He didn't even stop to enjoy the look of horrified shock on McNair's dying face as he split the death eater's head open like a ripe melon.
With no enemies immediately in range Ruebeus Hagrid looked towards his brother Grawp. The giant was limping towards the woods, dragging his club and clutching at his side. Hagrid was glad he had prepared three large poultices for his brother back in the cave. He looked for a way to assist Norbert, but the young Ridgeback was engaged in deadly combat against Tom's abomination. The near wing of the necrodragon was completely ripped off and the other one was bent at an odd angle. It had scorch marks all over from Norbert's flaming breath.
Some of the flames must have spilled over onto Aragog. Hagrid felt a tightness in his chest as his eyes made out the burning corpse of one of his oldest friends. Norbert was a bit worse for wear as the two monsters continued to snap and claw at each other. As the dead welsh green snapped it's maw forward, Norbert reared back and unleashed a gout of dragonfire directly into the others face. Coming out of the fiery maelstrom, it looked like one of the eyes had been melted in the socket. Instinctively, Norbert began circling to the blind side of the Necrodragon. The smaller Ridgeback made its move and was able to charge past the creatures defenses and lock it's jowls around the neck. The ground shook as the two beasts became locked in a death embrace. Hagrid moved clear as they rolled towards him. When the pair came to rest Norbert raised his head in a roar of primal victory as the neck and attached head had separated from Tom's creature. In a display of pure animal savagery, the injured Norbert tore at the body of the fallen creature, as if the living dragon wanted to destroy every last piece of the magical aberration.
Smiling a broad grin, Rubeus Hagrid turned to look at the other battle still in progress. Not liking what he saw, Hagrid sprinted towards the battle. He prayed to gods, both human and giant that he was not too late.
Dumbledore's fluid wand work again caused Voldemort problems, as the ground he was standing on transformed into quicksand. He was barely able to cast a spell to leap out of the muck, before his enemies freezing charm turned the quicksand into ice. 'Clever transfiguration from a seasoned master.'
"/Calx Manus Frendo/!" Dumbledore tapped his left arm with his wand and reached out to grab him. Voldemort saw a ripple effect cross the ground between them and a hand created of earth clawed at him. He shielded his wand arm with his other, only to have it caught firmly in the grasp and feeling a vice like squeeze on his forearm, bruising it instantly. Using his wand he send a blasting spell into the base of the arm reaching out of the ground. The arm disintegrated, and Dumbledore shook his arm vigorously like he had been stung. It allowed Voldemort to retake the offensive.
"/Lanitus Contagio/!" 'No children's spells tonight,' thought the Dark Lord as he sent a dark cutting curse at Dumbledore. His enemy grunted as some of the curse penetrated the protective shield. The wound would carry an infection with it.
"/Abrumpo per Incendia/!" Dumbledore's firewhip lashed out at him ripping gouts of charred earth into the air. Making use of his superior mobility Voldemort countered with "/Telum Glacies/" sending a large jagged chunk of ice, who wandlessly banished it to keep his firewhip in play. The tongue of fire licked at his shoulder ripping a gouge in his vest and searing at the flesh beneath. Voldemort let a hiss of pain escape his lips as the two of them continued to close on each other.
Either Dumbledore was trying to flaunt his power, or he was getting desperate. Performing wanded and wandless magic at the same time was incredibly taxing even for the most powerful of magic users. As Dumbledore rounded with the firewhip again, Voldemort counted on Dumbledore's desperation and channeled his raw anger into his next spell. "/Praesentia Fluctus/" A wave of raw energy raced towards Dumbledore, who released his whip, but failed to erect a proper shield in time. The power of the spell sent his nemesis tumbling through the air.
As Voldemort suspected, the geezer was tiring. Now, to press his advantage. His crushing hex slammed into Dumbledore's shield. His dark cutter broke through the barrier marking Dumbledore for the second time. He swatted away the feeble counter attack with a dueler's shield and sent another wave of power crashing into 'the only one he ever feared'. Albus's wand tumbled from his hand as he flew through the air again. Voldemort watched as his enemy attempted to wandlessly summon his wand back to his hand, but with a wave of yew it froze in mid air, where it would remain for the next five minutes.
"/Crucio/! There, Albus try fleeing now. /Acidus Lampas/!" The headmaster screamed and rolled to the side trying to avoid the spray of acid. The cursed phoenix appeared, but a killing curse cause it to retreat away from Dumbledore for the moment. 'Your pet won't save you this time!' He thought triumphantly.
Gasping and clutching at the right side of his face, Dumbledore raised his hand to create a feeble wandless shield. "/Lanitus Contagio!/" This time the cutter tore through the shield and severed the arm halfway between the elbow and the shoulder.
"No more games, Albus this ends now. / Avada Kedarrgh/!" Voldemort yelled in pain as Hagrid plowed into him at a full run sending him tumbling to the ground. The half-giant must weigh thirty stone. Voldemort barely dodged the axe as it slashed down. Voldemort tried to point his wand at his one time scapegoat only to have it swatted out of his hand.
"Time to die Tommy!" Hagrid roared swinging the blood spattered axe at Voldemort's head.
With no wand, Voldemort lost the advantage. His wandless banisher barely sent Hagrid back two meters and he was already on his feet again. Voldemort tried to summon his own wand only to have Hagrid's meaty paw snatch it out of the air and toss it into the woods beyond his ability to summon. Unlike the last time, there was nothing to stave off death, if this halfbred fool were to kill him it would be final.
"Not today, Riddle! My turn for payback! If I don't get you my dragon will be here any second." His wandless cutter got rid of the axe head, but it was draining him. To add to the frustration Dumbledore's firebird just reappeared. 'No, I cannot allow him to escape! I'm too close. He must die tonight!' Too late as the phoenix whisked his prey to safety. Hagrid clubbed him with the broken axe handle. Voldemort drove his fist into the giants gut and concentrated on his banisher to augment it as his other hand drew the unicorn horn knife and slashed at the halfbreed stomach. The cut had no noticeable effect, but the magical punch merely elicited a grunt. Hagrid's return blow cracked three ribs.
"Got yourself a tiny little knife there dontcha, little wizard? Didn't they used to beat you in your little orphanage?" Hagrid's kick felt like a sledgehammer to the knee as Voldemort felt his left leg give out from under him. Gathering his anger, he banished the knife directly into Hagrid's chest. It buried itself up to the hilt as Hagrid screamed in pain and staggered forward. It was a fatal blow, but from the maniacal expression on Hagrid's face, Voldemort could tell that he didn't care.
He climbed to his feet as Hagrid stumbled for him. "I'm already dead, Tommy, but I'm taking you with me!" Hagrid laughed coughing blood. He raised his arm Dumbledore had previously injured to block the blow and felt it shatter as he was knocked back to the ground. Voldemort rolled away as Hagrid stumbled towards him. It would be a humiliating way to die. He had to stay of the giant's reach long enough for the wound to finish of Hagrid. Weakly, he banished the crazed halfbreed in front of him. It had no effect.
"/Crucio/!" He heard a voice cry out as Hagrid sank to the ground in pain, but still trying to struggle forward towards Voldemort. Outlined in the twilight was Peter, pouring his energy into the torture curse. The dark lord used this to further separate him from his would be killer.
Peter than cast ropes to bind Hagrid, who roared in frustration. Voldemort recognized the same frustration at having Dumbledore escape his clutches.
"Your wand Peter." Voldemort commanded kneeling on his one good leg and letting his damaged arm dangle. Peter stepped in a wide arc around the trussed half-giant and pressed his wand into his master's hands. He also felt the wards preventing his escape fall as several death eaters began firing curses from their brooms into the forest.
"Your timing is impeccable, Peter. Now, Rubeus it appears the advantage is mine again. Shall I leave you to bleed out here or finish you."
"Doesn't really matter ter me, Tommy," wheezed Hagrid. "Your day is coming soon."
"Not even your precious Dumbledore can stand against me anymore. This was his best effort and he failed. The 'Leader of the Light' has been vanquished! I am the most powerful wizard in the world."
"Great man that Dumbledore, great wizard. Too bad it ain't him you gotta worry about. One day Harry's gonna come fer you. Great man that Harry Potter. Better than you'll ever be. Start looking over your shoulder Tommy."
"What do you know? Tell me. /Legilmens/!" Hagrid averted his eyes and raised himself to his knees. Only then did he look back at Voldemort. As fast as Voldemort began to invade his victims mind he retreated as Hagrid drove himself into the ground forcing the knife further in. The first rule of Legilmency is to never be in someone's mind when they die. He barely made it out in time. The mental backlash caused him to drop to the ground.
"Master! Severus and the others have finished the dragon and driven those in the woods away. What are your orders?"
"Accio wand! Thank you for the loan and your assistance, Peter." Voldemort said as he caught the wand coming to him from the woods and returned Peter's wand to him. It was a twitchy feeling wand. 'Strange wand for a strange little man.' He applied enough healing magic to allow him to temporarily stand on his injured leg. "Peter hand me that. I'll make a portkey back to our headquarters. I need to heal. Bring the old man's severed arm and wand. I'll mount it by the fireplace. The only one I ever feared, indeed! Carve my knife out of Hagrid and burn his body. He died like his kinsmen and he deserves to be cremated by their traditions. See if my dragon can be salvaged, but do not linger too long. Dumbledore's helpers will no doubt send the Ministry." He would never admit it to Peter or anyone else for that matter, but Hagrid's final words disturbed him. Had he vanquished one enemy only to learn that another has already taken his place? It was unsettling. Still, his enemies had thrown everything they possibly could at him and yet he was victorious!
"As you command, Master." Peter said bowing before handing the broken axe handle to his master.
Author's notes - Hope you enjoyed the battle. Was it the payoff you hoped for? I admit to being a bit disappointed by the face off between Dumbledore and Voldemort in book 5. I was hoping for more grandeur. The alternate titles of this chapter were "The Undoing of Dumbledore", "Arming Your Enemies", and "Could You Lend a Hand?" After using the limb loss joke on Susan last chapter, I figured too many of you would suspect something if you saw the title. Full discussion and author's notes on Darklord Potter. See you there! Jim