The Last Battle has been fought, and Harry Potter has won. The price, however, has been high. Nearly every person Harry cared for is dead, maimed, or otherwise injured. The magical culture of Bri...
Harry did his best to relax and enjoy himself during the spring term. His confidence allowed Hermione and the staff who were in on his secret to relax to some degree, although they were all still on edge. His core of followers, not really knowing the fine details, were somewhere between Harry and Hermione in their various reactions. All, however, managed to keep Harry's plan a secret, although there were a few close calls.
Hermione was also on edge because she and Snape were working closely together on the potions which would age and mature her and Harry's bodies after the duel, plus another set to change their appearances. While Snape was doing much of the raw research, only Hermione would know how the end-products should end up affecting the pair of them. In fact, Snape knew they could not be planning on taking all the altering potions, but was left in the dark as to which ones the pair might take.
Being a good Slytherin, Snape approved of Hermione's caution.
Diggle, Sirius, and Remus were also working hard. When the announcement of the duel came out, there would be an uproar, due in part to Harry's legal age and in part because of Bellatrix' and especially Riddle's participation. They had to make certain that all legal loopholes were closed or at least resolved in their favor.
The afternoon of the leaving-taking feast, Harry threw a small party for his closest supporters in the Room of Requirement. He didn't remind them of what they hoped to accomplish in the future, but thanked each one in turn for their support over the previous years. Each knew they would not be seeing Harry again for several years (all believed Harry would win, after all), and might not be seeing Hermione either.
The groups' somber mood somewhat affected the general leaving-taking mood at the feast. Afterwards, Harry thanked the staff members who were in on his secrets, and even managed a short talk with the Sorting Hat.
Harry and Hermione were the first two out the door the next morning, and stood just apart from the carriages as the students slowly made their way. "What are you thinking?" Hermione asked.
"Just how much I'll miss this place," Harry answered.
"Did you know there's a whole other section of the library, just for staff and authorized researchers?" Hermione asked.
Harry nodded. "In the mid-dungeons, under Ravenclaw Tower," he answered.
"Well, maybe some day you'll be teaching here, and I'll be researching," Hermione answered.
Harry smiled, and they walked hand-in-hand to their carriage.
As predicted, the up-roar and criticisms, not to mention total outrage, had been loud all across the magical world. It had been almost 200 years since an underage wizard had fought a legalized duel and over 400 since it had involved anyone younger than 16, and even then the youngest participants had been just a few weeks shy of 16.
Of course, they had all been seeking satisfaction from those involved in ending a blood feud, which this battle also could be seen as. Harry was the last of the Potters. If he died, his blood feud with Riddle would be over. If Harry won (odds makers were laying 300-1 against his surviving against Bellatrix Lestrange, 2000-1 against his winning, and the odds were only that low because so many people were betting on a miracle, plus because of the serious money that Sirius was laying down on Harry -- the majority of betters, betting on Lestrange-Riddle, where more doing so sadly but hoping that if this meant Voldemort did gain any sort of power they could use their bets and the money they won to prove a sort of loyalty), baby Electra Black would officially be raised under the joint fosterage of Sirius and Harry, even if a different couple would actually be caring for her no matter what the outcome.
The British Ministry had raised the greatest objections, and it was only ancient customs which prevented them from arresting Sirius for child endangerment. Throughout July, public opinion expressed its outrage. By early August, however, while the outrage remained, another attitude was also forming. Voldemort had been partially knocked off the pedestal of fear he had managed to erect in the early 1970s by the revelations of his biography and by the fact that his attempt to rebuild the Death Eaters had failed so spectacularly. Voldemort's part and participation in the duel (under his real name of Tom Marvolo Riddle no less) had driven home the lesson that this might be a very dangerous, evil, and powerful Dark Sorcerer, but he was nothing more.
For all intents and purposes, Riddle had traded his Voldemort persona for one last attempt at a form of immortality.
Sunday, August 20, 1994
The seating at the oval was of course nearly full. With tens of thousands of people coming to Britain for the Quidditch Cup, and with officials from all over the world coming as well, there was no end of demand for a seat.
There was only one block of a hundred empty seats. Those were for the guests of Bellatrix Lestrange and her second.
No one had dared accept an invitation.
It wasn't that there weren't several organizations in Europe which sympathized with Voldemort's stated beliefs, it was more that they no longer trusted that Riddle/Voldemort represented those beliefs. Riddle had even seen several faces in the VIP seats which belonged to those he knew he would have to deal with once the ridiculous fights were over if he were to lead the Pure-Bloods of Europe. The primary duel was scheduled to start at noon, sun time, and Riddle hoped everything would be finished within thirty minutes, since it would take some time for Potter to bleed out.
The crowd settled in one hour before the start of the fight. There was little of the boisterousness of a sporting match -- at first. Thirty minutes before the duel started, the seconds appeared in small box seats on either side of the arena. Almost instantly, total silence fell as the crowd beheld the inhuman Voldemort. Then, from Potter's friends' seats, a matching pair of red-heads started a chant which within thirty seconds was echoing around the entire arena as 95% of the audience chanted it.
Voldemort could do nothing but endure the ridicule. Had it been mostly hate and anger, he could have in some small sense fed off of it, but this ridicule he could not.
The chant continued until the duel principals came out to join their seconds fifteen minutes left before the start. Instantly, wards went up, blocking all sound from reaching the dueling pitch (and the various small areas where the principals, seconds, and officials were seated). The crowd quieted, and the chief mediator walked out to the pitch. Anything said there would be heard by all.
First, each principal and second lit a small 'life candle' near their seats -- magically linked to larger now flaming cauldrons ringing the stadium, these would show when one of the participants died by extinguishing themselves. Then, the two main participants walked out to the field itself.
"Bellatrix Black Lestrange, you may make an appeal to the challenged to end this duel."
"Potter!" Bellatrix called. "This is your last chance to follow my lord! Join us, and we will someday rule the world! Join us, and I will move to become his left hand while you may become his right!"
"Harry Potter, your response?"
"No, thank you. Besides, why would you want to be his left hand when you know what he uses it for?"
"Final statement, Madam Black Lestrange?"
"You will die, Potter!"
"Harry James Potter, you may make an appeal to the challenger to end this duel."
"Surrender or die," was all Harry said.
"Bellatrix Black Lestrange, your response?"
"Little boy, you should have waited another three years!"
"Final statement, Mister Potter?"
Harry raised his hands and shouted, "Bellatrix Black Lestrange! I declare you to be a Wicked Witch, the Wicked Witch of the East in fact!" Harry lowered his hands and grinned. "That was a Muggle curse, Bella! Let's see if I can translate it into a form of magic you and your Master can understand."
That confused nearly every person in the stadium. It prodded the memory of Tom Riddle, as he wondered where he had heard the phrase before. For some reason it made him think of a cinema, where he had had to endure some very odd Muggle movies with the other orphans.
Meanwhile, the two principals went and stood on their marks, twenty-yards apart. When a gong went off, they could start hexing.
"Is da wittle Potter weady to die?" Bellatrix mocked.
"Arf arf woof," Harry replied.
"What?" Bella demanded, confused.
"Just speaking your language, bitch witch!" Harry pointed out, just as the gong sounded.
Bellatrix quickly launched her best cutting curse, a powerful, almost dark curse that was not easy to defend against.
Harry's reflexes allowed him to merely dodge, with little difficulty.
Frowning, Lestrange sent off another, faster but less powerful cutting hex. Harry dodged again. Another hex, sent more quickly.
Snarling, Bellatrix sent off a barrage, which quickly escalated to the fastest, longest cursing set she had ever put together. For nearly five long minutes, she sent everything she had at Harry Potter.
He dodged or blocked everything with ease.
Ignoring her orders, but so frustrated she could think of nothing else, Bellatrix screamed the killing curse.
A clear metal shield appeared between them, ringing like a gong when it was struck, but holding.
Bellatrix and Riddle both went wide-eyed at that. Bellatrix had never heard of such a thing. Riddle had, but had not imagined anyone in Britain other than himself and Dumbledore capable of casting it.
Bellatrix stood still and glared at her opponent for a moment. She snapped off a spell which ignited a huge fire in front of Harry and sent three killing curses through the flames.
Before the flames died down, a pair of large bells appeared on a frame about twenty yards away. Bellatrix took six steps back, so she could keep an eye on where Potter had been as well as whatever he was up to with the bells.
DING DONG they rang.
That meant they were either real, or a brilliant and powerful illusion.
There was a simple conjuring trick, where you could seemingly vanish an object and make it reappear at will with no damage, if you were powerful enough and the object had not been alive. The average well-trained wizard could 'disappear' any object up to the size of a school trunk. However, duplicating the object was a different thing all together. For something simple, like a non-magical trunk, the first replicated item would usually be fine, if a bit structurally weak, and nothing which had been inside the trunk was likely to have been duplicated well, if at all. Generally, two or three replicas would be the most a wizard could achieve before it failed all together.
A few, more powerful wizards, could duplicate small things more easily. Mrs. Weasley, for example, had perfected the replication of several sauces and gravies, disappearing, replicating, disappearing, and replicating so fast that she could expand the amount several times with no loss of taste and only slight loss of nutritional value.
A truly powerful sorcerer, Dumbledore, had once conjured the idea of a sleeping bag, and had then disappeared and replicated it so quickly that he had supplied his entire student body with the item in just a few seconds.
Of course purely conjured items vanished fairly quickly, if not as quickly as replicated items. That Dumbledore's sleeping bags had lasted several days had also been a testament to his power.
Riddle wondered if Potter had for some reason disappeared the bells, impressive since they and their frame were quite large, or had conjured the items. Either bespoke more power than he himself had had before the age of 20 or so.
The flames disappeared, showing that Harry was still alive and healthy. Harry called out, "Do you know the penalty for being a wicked witch, Bellatrix Lestrange?"
Lestrange glared back. At the first real movement of Potter's wand, she would charge and attack. She did not count the slight waver it made, which was a mistake.
Suddenly, she was in shadow. Had she been able to hear the crowd, she would have heard them scream in terror and surprise. Involuntarily, she looked up.
Floating thirty feet above her head was a very large concrete slab. What she couldn't see -- and everyone else could -- was that above the slab was a two-storey, twelve room (four bedroom, 2 1/2 bath, dining room, play room, parlor, inglenook, and kitchen) brick suburban villa.
And two long seconds after Bellatrix looked up, it was no longer floating.
Bellatrix was crushed into a pulp. The candle and cauldrons showing her life force went out.
"Ding dong the witch is dead,
Which old Witch?
The Wicked witch!
Ding Dong the wicked witch is dead!" the now-enchanted bells sang.
"Be careful, Riddle!" Harry called out as he vanished the bells, "Or else someone will drop a house on you!"
"Well," Snape said in awe, "there might not be any brown stains down there, but I bet there are a few around us. I won't even try to collect on that bet!"
"At least we now know how those nine houses disappeared," Dumbledore said. "But I do not understand the reference, and must worry a bit about the ethics of stealing houses."
"The reference means something to most Muggle-born or raised," Remus said. "And if you traced the paperwork, the houses were being built by companies Harry owns, and none had insurance claims filed. He can hardly be accused of stealing from himself, can he?"
"I just can't believe he could disappear an entire house successfully," Sirius said, finally finding his voice.
"The first four were failures to some degree, and the next two were successful practices," Remus said simply. "If he needs them, he has two more in his wand."
The seconds ran through the small hour-glass shaped timer, and Tom Marvolo Riddle had to step into the arena. He still had the option to surrender.
"Tom Marvolo Riddle!" Harry called out. "You killed my parents! You tried to get your witch-slave to kill me for you! You coward! You, who claim to be the greatest sorcerer alive, who claim to be the heir of Salazar Slytherin, are nothing more than a coward who relied on bully-boys, surprise, and terror to defeat your enemies. You couldn't have defeated either of my parents in a duel, and you were too afraid of dying to challenge me, then only thirteen! -- directly. If you take the coward's way out, I swear I'll post a half-million Galleon reward for your head before the end of the day!"
Voldemort realized that if he had any chance of pulling his life back together, he would have to be careful. Whatever he had been expecting, this boy was not it. He watched Potter, and looked for the right moment.
"Hey, Tom!" Harry went on. "How does it feel when you know you're about to die, and are so terrified of it that it's consumed your every action for the last fifty years? How does it feel to know that instead of going down in Hogwarts: A History as a brilliant-but-disadvantaged former Head Boy who did great things for the magical world, you're going to be a footnote in the history books as a blood-thirty, crazed half-blood who dishonored Slytherin and who died at the hands of a fourteen year old boy? How does it feel. . . ."
Harry's enhanced reflexes easily allowed him to avoid the curse, and as he did so he murmured, "Accio Riddle's right eye." Summoning charms could easily be blocked and they had to be voiced (Harry had managed to get his down to a murmur after a lot of practice). On the positive side, they could not be seen and were very powerful when not blocked.
"AVADA K . . . AAaarrrggh!" Riddle screamed as his right eye was ripped from his head. He quickly retreated, fortunately for him (in the short run) just far enough that a falling house just missed crushing him.
Harry put everything he had into a medical charm, again something easily blocked -- and also very visible. However, Voldemort was unable to really see his surroundings as he staggered away from Harry, missing one eye and in great pain. Harry was using the charm as a hex. Healers used the charm on patients who had just lost a limb or a digit, as it made a clean cut and cauterized the wound at the same time. Riddle, however, had both straightened up moved in an unexpected direction. The charm therefore missed his head and caught his left elbow, removing his forearm and hand cleanly.
It took several seconds before the stunned nerves told Riddle's brain what had happened. Riddle howled in pain and grasped for his missing forearm.
"Accio Riddle's wand," Harry murmured. He caught the wand and snapped it.
Outside the dueling area, a sigh of relief whispered through the crowd.
"Don't get too confident," many of the spectators whispered, some silently and some aloud.
Harry removed Riddle's right arm at the shoulder and then both his legs at the knee. Then Harry burned the limbs to ashes in front of Riddle's writhing torso and remaining eye.
Harry knelt and managed to catch Riddle's remaining eye just long enough to think to himself, 'Legilimens!'
Inside Riddle's mind, beyond the incredible amount of pain, beyond the anger and the fear was a remarkable amount of self-pity.
'You are pitiful, but not pitiable,' Harry thought at him. Then he both said and projected (since mere words were unlikely to register with the agonized Riddle, the thoughts would, while the spoken words would carry to the spectators), "From the day after you murdered my parents until the day I received my Hogwarts letter, I was more despised and treated worse than you ever were in that Muggle orphanage. Where ever you go after I kill this body, remember that you could have been great. You could have despised your magical heritage, not your Muggle, or better yet embraced them both. You could have made yourself into the hero of the average wizard, defender of the Muggle-born and Half-bloods and Mixed-bloods and made your mark as the greatest of the Light since Merlin. No, you're here because you're a sick, twisted, sadistic loon, just like your uncle. You're a pompous, arrogant wanker, just like your Muggle father. You're the worst of both the magical and Muggle worlds. You're a murderous piece of scum." He then projected the thought, 'I'm just glad that, with only one seventh of a soul, you can't become a ghost.'
Riddle ignored all that, and merely asked mentally through the pain, 'But how. . . ?'
Harry gave Riddle a few brief images of the original time-stream, and Riddle saw that, despite having caused more mayhem, he had still gone down to defeat. He saw that Harry had been brought back by the willing sacrifice of two women, one of whom had never even met Harry or his parents beyond a nod at the younger students while the three had been at Hogwarts together.
Riddle still didn't understand. Why hadn't witches that powerful simply backed him and made his plans for world domination easier?
"Because life isn't about you or any other individual," Harry said, again both aloud and in Riddle's head (so it would by-pass the pain). "Because we matter to ourselves. You're too selfish for any sane person to want to help, if they have the brains to see that the only thing that mattered to you was you."
And with that, Harry removed Tom Marvolo Riddle's head. The candle and cauldrons representing his life-force went out.
With that, most of the wards went down and Harry could hear the screaming, cheering, spectators. He stood and motioned for quiet, which took several minutes to achieve.
When it finally went quiet, Harry amplified his voice (since the wards were down, it was no longer automatic), and admonished them, saying, "WHY DIDN'T ANY OF YOU STOP THIS MAN FIFTY YEARS AGO?" The crowd went very quiet. "ANSWER: BECAUSE YOU THOUGHT ALBUS DUMBLEDORE WOULD PROTECT YOU. THAT YOU DIDN'T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING EXCEPT LIVE YOUR SELFISH LITTLE LIVES, ARGUE ABOUT WHO IS BETTER THAN WHOM, AND, FOR MANY IN THE MEDIA AND MINISTRY. TAKE YOUR LITTLE BRIBES WHERE EVER POSSIBLE. WELL, GUESS WHAT? YOU CAN'T RELY ON ME TO PULL YOUR CHESTNUTS OUT OF THE FIRE! IF YOU WANT SOMEONE TO SAVE YOU, WORK TOGETHER AND YOU CAN BLOODY WELL SAVE YOURSELVES!"
And with that, Harry disapparated from the dueling circle.