Disclaimer - Even after all this, I don't own Hary Potter. This is just a work of fanfiction.
Acknowledgements - I'd like to thank Kokopelli and Alpha Fight Club. You folks are great.
Chapter 39 - One Last Moment in the Setting Sun
October 31st, 1996
Peter stood as tall as he could. Facing him were a dozen centaurs stallions. In the background he could hear the dying wails of a giant. Neutralizing Grawp had been child's play - he wasn't able to resist the wild boar that had been bewitched to wander close to the entrance of Grawp's cave. Unfortunately for Grawp, the boar was so full of toxins that it was mostly dead before Grawp ever snatched it.
"Lord Voldemort offers this gift, a dead giant, to your people as a token of his respect for the centaur nation. As we have also said to the Merpeople, my lord has no interest in your territories and wishes you no ill-will."
The leader, identified as Bane, looked annoyed with Peter. "The herds are not interested in the dealings of wizards. We grow weary of doing your dirty work."
"My lord seeks no service from you. The giant fought against him and justice has found him. Unlike Dumbledore, we would never seek to use you to remove his spider problem."
A shout from the edge of the grotto attracted everyone's attention. "Bane, you cannot listen to this worm! His words are full of lies!"
Bane's expression hardened. "Ah, our traitor returns with more warnings and dire predictions. Tell me, Firenze, have you grown tired of trying to enlighten the wand-waving spawn? Have they made you into a gelding yet, to become the perfect man pet?"
Peter watched as the centaurs turned towards the new arrival. "The darkness edges forward seeking to eclipse everything. Isensed you needed my counsel."
Bane roared with a mocking laughter, "How soon you seem to forget that I too can read the stars. Yet my interpretation is that the coming slaughter is best left to our two-legged oppressors."
"I have come to prevent you from making a mistake."Firenze answered.
"Ah, but what you fail to realize is that it is my mistake to make, Firenze. What little support you had in the herds left when you turned your back on us. It is /you /who have made the mistake in returning. You are either 'of the herd' or you are not."
Firenze looked angry and reared on his hind legs."I will always be 'of the herd.' I see there is nothing further for me to do here, so, I will go to make my case before the elders. They need to know that inaction is the path to doom for us all."
The renegade turned to leave when a dozen bows cocked in his direction. Firenze turned and looked at Bane, "Now, who is not 'of the herd?' Will you truly strike me down, going against all that we hold sacred?"
Bane held his hand to halt the archers and then cast a glance towards Peter as if waiting to see what the Animagus would do.
/The d/eadly green energy washed over Firenze and the centaur fell lifeless to the ground.
Peter looked at the centaurs, which still had arrows at the ready, but had not yet pointed them at him. "Like the giant, he was an ally of Dumbledore and would only drag your people into the conflict. My lord wishes for your herds to flourish and take no sides in the battles to come."
Bane gestured to his warriors to lower their weapons, most complied. "He was my enemy, but he was also acentaur. Be gone from our woods, Wizard. I know of the creatures that are in the southern tip of the forest. Take them with you!"
"They will be gone by nightfall and shall not return." Peter bowed respectfully and turned to leave. He strained his ears, listening for the sounds of arrows, but was relieved to hear none. Reaching the end of the grotto, he Apparated back to his group of fighters. They'd been given a crucial role in the battle and he was determined not to let his master down.
Lord Voldemort chose not to ride into Hogsmeade on a broom; he'd always disliked them. Instead, like Hannibal crossing the Alps, he rode into the village on the back of a massive creature. His"elephant" was Hagrid's dead former pet, the three-headed dog previously known as "Fluffy." Hurling a bolt of magic, a burning house exploded into cursed shrapnel.
He trusted the source of his intelligence with his life. The same intelligence that said the Ministry's staging point would be to the west. As Scrimgeour's mob of an army cut its teeth on his undead in the ruins, his broom riders would strike as one instead of engaging in pointless individual duels, and then the Vampire would use the Veelas to beguile the male wizards in the right flank and hit them hard.
Meanwhile, all of Hogsmeade needed to burn, well, not all of Hogsmeade. Voldemort brought his mount to a halt and leapt down in front of the building. The battle was going according to plan, but he could not afford any mishaps. A few of the zombies started towards him, but he stepped past the ward line, admiring the workmanship that caused the husks to ignore this building completely. The owner opened the door. His eyes were glazed over from an obvious compulsion. Whoever had done so, wanted to make it obvious that this man was enthralled. There was a dead man seated in the chair next to the broadcast desk and rows filled with broadcast crystals and vinyl records.
"Who was that?" He asked the manager of the Hogsmeade Wizarding Wireless station.
"Tobias Poggins, my Ministry appointed censor."
"Who killed him?"
"You did, Master." The owner didn't sound terribly unhappy about the censor's fate.
Voldemort, almost handed him the crystal, but then saw a duplicate of the recording crystal already mounted on the wireless broadcaster. Apparently, it would have to wait.
"Is anyone else in the building?"
"My wife and child are in the bedroom upstairs."
"Are they alive?"
"Yes, you put them into an enchanted sleep."
"Very good. Continue with your tasks, servant."
Lord Voldemort ascended the steps and withdrew asmall box. His recent trip to America last week had netted him a most useful item. Minutes passed as he looked out the window to the west, searching the fields for the first signs of the anticipated Ministry army.
"Ah yes, right on time. How punctual of them." He began to dictate using the Quick Quotes quill, noting the size and composition of the enemy force as they struggled to move the ill-trained mob into position. Within seconds, the fighting began. Time continued to march forward and he sensed something to the north. If that massive surge was what he suspected, there would be a great celebration tonight.
From the small box, he withdrew his newest acquisition, a time turner. There was only one person who he would trust with his life. He placed the time turner about his neck and began turning it backwards. There was much work to be done and he needed to send himself a few last minute adjustments to the plan.
Time was, indeed, on his side.
Harry's skin still itched where it had been burned in the fight with the Revenant. For a change, Susan didn't have to drag him out to the feast. Though Halloween had been celebrated as a holy day amongst magical folks for centuries, it had taken on a new meaning after the events in 1981. Harry knew what a sad, delusional lie that was. It was easily his least favorite holiday, but he felt better than he had in a long time. His strength had returned and ironically, as Flitwick predicted, the long spell of Revenant-induced weakness had helped him improve as a fighter.
"You're in a good mood." Hermione said coming up next to him.
Harry replied with mock severity, "Sorry, I'll try to be a bit angrier and brooding. Will that help?"
She shrugged flipping her hair over her shoulder,"Perhaps, but most would mistake it for your normal demeanor."
"You wound me with your wit. Are you looking forward to watching the fireworks from Hogsmeade this evening?"
"Most of Ravenclaw seems to be staying in their tower. I suppose it has just as good a view from there as it does from here. Where's Susan?"
"Not feeling well. It's starting to get difficult for her."
"Do you want me to stop by and see her? I can come by for a visit later."
"That'd be great! She's actually spending more time with you than I am these days. Where's Ron?"
"In a broom closet with Dean."
Harry looked stunned, "What?"
Hermione frowned for a minute before laughing,"They're actually cleaning the broom closet. Sorry, I just wanted to see the look on your face, rather juvenile of me I suppose, especially given the circumstances, but it was priceless. It's the broom closet right by the steps where Ginny ..."
Harry understood as her voice trailed off, both of his classmates were still working through their loss. "Dean's idea?"
"Actually, it was Ron's. Dare I say it, but he's becoming quite mature for his age."
"Or like me, he's getting better at hiding it."
"Keep telling yourself that Harry. Someone might believe you."
For a short time, they bantered casually back and forth. It was lighthearted, harkening back to the days before Voldemort's resurrection, when times were less troubling. For a brief shining moment the two of them reclaimed a moment of their youth, both hoping it would last longer.
It lasted only as long as it took for someone to turn on the first wireless set in advance of the music that was to be played during the fireworks. Instead someone was speaking and Harry knew that voice all to0 well.
...imagination. As I was saying, I want you, the people, to have a complete understanding of tonight's actions and why I am doing this. Many people will die this evening and I regret this course of action, but one must never shy away from the hard decisions.
Tonight, I will erase Hogsmeade from the face of the planet. I look upon 'the only all-magical' settlement in England and what Isee saddens me - ramshackle hovels, where magnificent houses should stand! I see no museums, no places with Masters tutoring their Apprentices, and nothing that gives me any sense that we are a people or a culture to be admired. It is a symbol of all that is wrong with this land and the backwards mindset of the people who govern it.
I could almost allow this affront to pass, were it not for the fact that your minister plans to make to turn Hogsmeade into an armed camp. I cannot allow this to occur and that is why this place shall be destroyed.
But wait, I suppose the Minister's grand army will arrive to save the day? Surely they will thwart the Dark Lord?Another lesson for those hearing my voice, for it is not sheer numbers that can destroy me. They cannot legislate me out of existence. Scrimgeour and his toadies will be shown for the fools that they are. My followers, I ask them to join. Your Minister passes a decree and demands that you join. Where is freedom in all this I ask you? When did your Ministry stop serving you and instead begin to command you?
So, I will fight this mob of an army and I shall win. I will fight them at Dumbledore's doorstep and in full-view of all the children at the castle, teaching them a valuable lesson. The children will know that the Minister cannot command the people to stop me. My power is unmatched and none shall stand against me. The children will know that people who volunteer to fight will fare much better than those forced to fight. Finally, they will look out from that bastion and see nothing left of Hogsmeade and know that their future under Scrimgeour is bleak, when his might army cannot protect his citizens.
Know this - I will strike down Rufus Scrimgeour, I will strike down Albus Dumbledore, and I will strike down Harry Potter for Iam Lord Voldemort and tonight, my will is law!
Once again, the school alarms rang, instructing the students to return to their dorms. Harry started looking for Dumbledore.
Lord Voldemort worked his way through the tasks before him. The wife and child were put to sleep. The Ministry toady was eliminated. The broadcaster bewitched and handed the recording crystal to be played at the designated time. He started to erect the wards that would divert the undead, and then he remembered to send himself the owl.
Briefly, he considered the possibility of placing the station under the Fidelius charm, but such a piece of magic was not meant for a public building. It might cause people to forget where the station was on their wireless dial. After a time, it became one of those ideas that just became too cumbersome to place into action. There was no doubt that Scrimgeour would order this transmitter destroyed. It will be the only building left in Hogsmeade after all.
Lord Voldemort finished his mundane work ahead of schedule. It was time to summon the Dementors. They had been adisappointment, rather fearful to take the field after Potter had found a way to destroy them en masse/. The upside of the current Dementor situation was that they were /very good at kissing Muggles and returning with their bodies.
He Apparated to the warehouse, surprising Peter.
"Master, did you not just summon us to our new base?"
"Indeed I did. I require something I have stored here. Unless you hurry, you will find that I am there when you arrive and I will be most displeased." He walked past Peter, rather amused. Now he knew why his servant had appeared rather nervous at the beginning of the briefing. He had apparently played a small, but rather amusing joke on himself.
He entered the laboratory and located the spinning crystal; it was a testament to Madame Edgecombe's inventiveness and tireless work ethic. After months, she had recreated the central controlling crystal to the Floo Network, albeit with a few minor modifications. While the battle in Hogsmeade would indeed be a monumental blow to the Scrimgeour administration, losing control over the Floo Network would prove equally devastating. Madame Edgecombe had unsuccessfully lobbied for years to create a backup crystal. The administration in power had always deemed the expense too costly. Now, having destroyed their crystal, it would take several months to create another. Thus, Scrimgeour will either shut down the Floo network and impede all commerce, or be forced to cede control of it to Voldemort. That reminded him; the Knight Bus needed to be destroyed. Either way, the Minister loses.
Five minutes after Voldemort's address had begun repeating, most every capable fighter in Hogwarts assembled at the Auror station near the Great Hall.
Harry looked over the group as Dumbledore addressed the group. "Minerva, I leave Hogwarts in your hands. It does not appear that he will be testing our defenses, but rather making a statement in Hogsmeade."
The leader of the Auror detachment reiterated that their responsibility was to defend the castle and that the forces stationed in Hogsmeade are already engaged with the forces being massed for a counter attack.
The Headmaster's eyes came to rest on Harry. It looked like he was about to protest, but then he stopped. Harry knew he was ready. Dumbledore knew it as well, so the hypocritical argument never materialized. Tonks, however, was headed towards him with a scolding look in her eye. He wasn't out of the woods yet! Between the Order members and the staff, there were fifteen wands coming going to Hogsmeade and an equal number here for the defense of the castle.
"Harry! What do you think you're doing?"
"Going to fight. Are you coming?"
"I don't think this is a good idea. It could be a trap."
"No, it's a battlefield. People are fighting and dying. I'm a powerful wizard and I can help."
Tonks shrugged. "I'll get our brooms. You get to explain it to your wife, assuming we both get back."
Harry watched as Minerva turned away a group of students who had come to offer to fight. Harry slid behind a pair of Order members, not wanting to provide fuel for their argument. Oddly, he found himself face to face with Peter Abbott.
"What are you doing, Potter?"
"I'm staying out of sight, while McGonagall sends those students away."
"What makes you think that you're ready for something like this?"
The other Order member with Abbott, who, Harry recalled, was named Torkelson, scoffed. "Give it a rest, Peter. I've dueled against both you and Potter. You know I'm better than you and I've dueled against Harry here and he wipes the floor with me every time, sometimes I even had help. Harry, I feel better knowing you're with us."
Harry thanked the man and saw that between McGonagall and Vector, the student volunteers had been dealt with. The less time he spent around Abbott, the healthier Abbott would remain. Somehow, he knew that even if he killed Voldemort right now, there would still be people who treated him this way. It seemed unavoidable. Fortunately, most of the people whose opinions mattered to him had reached aconsensus that Harry could take care of himself.
He checked the vials of potions clipped to his bracer. Hermione had given him something to try for her. On the bracer was something that looked like a six-sided die, but it would grow to the size of Dudley's old cube puzzle game that Dudley would always have to take apart and put back together to show Aunt Petunia how "brilliant" he was. It was the runic equivalent of a hand grenade and apparently was what the sixth and seventh year NEWT students in Runes were crafting. Maybe it was the strangeness of the situation, but Harry almost pictured a factory with students carving away for the war time effort like those old documentaries Vernon used to watch on the BBC. Moving next to Flitwick, he spotted that his professor sported three of the tiny cubes on his left bracer.
"Stick close to me Harry, in case we run into public enemy number one. If you can lock wands with him, do it? Neutralizing him within the battle is just as good as a victory."
"What about Dumbledore? Shouldn't we stay close to him?"
"If possible, yes, but Albus tends to freelance far too much in battle. Take it from someone who has fought beside him before, he has a style of fighting that is ill-suited for group tactics."
Tonks returned with their brooms and they waited as the last minute instructions were given. Several of the people including Harry felt a tingle of power, almost like a shiver passing through the room. Someone was wielding powerful magic out there and no one really wanted to guess who it was. Dumbledore stared down at the map on the Aurors desk.
"Harry, Filius - I want you to lead our broom riders into Hogsmeade over the lake. There are reports of a substantial number of Inferii in the village and giants are there as well. Tom and some of his minions are fighting a group of Ministry people at the edge of the castle's wards. I will detain him. Rescue as many people as you possibly can and inflict what casualties you can on his forces. Leave the pitched battles to the Ministry's militia."
Fawkes swooped in and trilled hovering before the old man. A second later, they disappeared and Flitwick took over giving instructions with his childlike voice.
Within a minute all fifteen of them were airborne and flying over the lake in a v-shaped formation. Smoke and explosions could be seen in the distance along with tiny flashes of light indicating aerial battles. Harry's pulse quickened as he fought the urge to push the Firebolt faster. In less than a minute, he'd be fighting in a war.
Dumbledore reappeared in a flash with Fawkes hovering above him. He had paused by the battlements to drink the Polyjuice, assuming Harry's form. It would not be nearly as disconcerting for his opponent as it had been last time, but having two arms and a fully functioning respiratory system were well worth the trade-off. When he finished transforming, he again signaled his familiar, who transported him into the fray.
There were perhaps two dozen combatants. He ignored the flurry of low level spells around him. The cloaked figured waiting for him commanded his attention. The longer Tom was delayed here meant the greater the chances for turning the tide in Hogsmeade.
"Hello again, Tom," he whispered, allowing his voice to be magically carried to his opponent, who did not reply. "Time to resume our game, don't you not agree?"
The hooded man tapped an object sitting on a rock and a wave of power emanated from it and all fighting suddenly ceased. It was a ruse!
Dumbledore looked around warily as twenty-plus wands turned on him. The hood was thrown back, revealing Peter Pettigrew. "The master said you would walk into this trap like a fool. Ishould have never doubted him. Avada Kedavra!"
Killing curses and other lethal spells came from all angles. Dumbledore dived to the ground, raising a stone barrier on his left side and sending a raw wave of energy against those on his right. It sent eight of them sprawling as the curses shattered the earthworks he had created. Fawkes circled overhead, but a continuous stream of curses from six minions kept his familiar above, just out of reach. He sent a seismic wave through the ground itself as a cutting curse lashed his side. Three explosive curses destroyed the final vestiges of his barrier.
Working his spells as fast as he could, he conjured, transfigured and animated with a rush of magical energy, but there were too many. Bludgeoners savaged him, while cutting curses ripped at his flesh. His wand was knocked from his hand. Reaching his hand up to Fawkes, he hoped his companion would find a way to him as green light filled his vision. He cursed himself for a fool as the energy enveloped him.
"Victory!" Peter shouted. The trap had worked! He would forever be known as the man who led the attack that killed Albus Dumbledore! All those around him, whether in Death Eater garb or not, cheered the carcass in front of them.
A sound interrupted their celebration, forcing Peter to look up. Above them, circled the firebird and he recalled his Care of Magical Creatures training, bracing himself for the Phoenix Song that would evoke feelings of terror. What he heard was both surprising and equally as terrifying.
It was not the lament of a creature mourning the passing of its master. It was the angry war cry of a monster unleashed and the sound shook him to his core. The bird disappeared momentarily only to reappear in front of one of the men in Ministry garb to his left. He barely had time to scream as burning claws ripped his flesh and the beak shattered his skull. The Phoenix disappeared as spells ripped through the empty air, destroying the falling body.
People started firing spells blindly as the monster came after them. Several broke and ran. One idiot ran towards the castle and was disintegrated by the fully operational wards protecting the school. Others tried to get into the forest only to be turned into burning pillars of flesh as the creature unleashed its full wrath on them. Peter cursed the wards they had set up to prevent Dumbledore from escaping, for they were now stuck in the same situation.
Almost half were dead already. It would get them all if Peter didn't do something - fast. "Backs together! Form a line! Quickly! It's our only hope! Keep it at bay and we'll destroy the ward stones."
The remainder struggled to comply. Peter was counting on the man at his back to protect him as he shot spells at the Phoenix. For a moment, he wondered if his Animagus form would be fast enough to make it to the forest. No! He would not lose his command. Lord Voldemort had demanded that Dumbledore's body be brought to him and Peter would not fail!
So it was that the ten remaining Death Eaters clustered together casting spells at the elusive monster. It let off afrightening shriek that Peter imagined was what a banshee would sound like and disappeared.
"Quickly destroy the ward stones and we can Portkey out. You grab Dumbledore's body. Hurry what are you waiting..."
Peter never finished the sentence as a blinding light washed over them. It was like a miniature sun had appeared above them, descending rapidly. He thrust his wand skyward firing spells at that which he could not see as the fireball encompassed the area.
Stories would be told that Albus Dumbledore sacrificed himself in a blazing release of magic that left a fifty foot wide crater of blackened earth where nothing would grow. It was a bleak and barren monument, save for a small silver stain near the epicenter. His allies would praise his nobility and his enemies would be glad that such terrible power no longer faced them.
The stories would, of course, be wrong. Lord Voldemort was a well-read person. He knew many legends that had been thought lost to time. When he felt that detonation in Hogsmeade, he knew that one of these legends had turned out to be true after all. Most considered the Phoenix a symbol of goodness and purity, however there were several theories that the creature is an avatar of chaos and destruction. Those who subscribed to it speculated that the dangerous creatures were anchored to Wizards or Witches of a peaceful nature by the powers above lest the whole world burn from their fury.
Lord Voldemort had originally planned to be there, mocking Dumbledore as the door slammed shut on his trap. The magic he sensed prior to using the time turner was enough to send Peter in his stead. He hoped Peter would survive, the rest were new recruits or agroup of Scrimgeour's Army placed under the Imperious curse.
In the final analysis, trading Peter and twenty assorted nobodies for Albus Dumbledore was a net victory. Much like this is a victory.
Lord Voldemort stood disillusioned at the door of an office in one of the buildings adjacent to the Ministry building. It was still a few hours in the past and Dumbledore still lived. The office was called the Nexus. It was the central hub of the Floo network. Four people stood inside the intricate runic lattice that comprised the "brains" of the Floo Network. Using complex spells, the Arithmancers managed the pathways to optimize traffic flow. That left only the receptionist and the one additional person - probably a Floo installer in the room.
His discussions with the Dementors were successful. They were on their way to join in the battle. Unlike the carnage, which would soon be starting in Hogsmeade, Lord Voldemort had no intention of causing these people lasting harm. They were highly trained professionals, of the type that you did not just replace. Destructive spells were also frowned upon, if he wanted the complex runework to remain intact.
What he intended to do brought back brazen memories of his impetuous youth, of days when he was not as certain of his power. Casting a bubblehead charm, he uncorked the sleeping vapors and connected the tubing into the bellows. A vanishing spell created a tiny hole in the wall which he attached the charmed bellows to with a sticking charm.
It would blow the vapors into the room and put them all to sleep. He repeated this twice more to ensure that it wouldn't be very long at all and waited patiently.
Five minutes later, he walked into the room stunning the still barely awake receptionist. Using the spells Madame Edgecombe had prepared him with, he crossed into the runic area and approached the central crystal. It was a priceless gem of flawless quality.
Examining the base, he pressed the runes in sequence to stop the gems spinning and place the Floo system into a maintenance mode. Once per month the system was shut down for a brief period so that the gem could be meticulously cleaned - or in this case, replaced.
He purposefully had Madame Edgecombe use adifferent gem. When the next shift arrived, or his victims awoke, they would realize that the network was compromised. That's when the fun would begin. Prying open one of the Arithmancer's eyes, he peered into the man's unconscious mind. Legilimency took even less time when the subject was unconscious. He now had the Floo Address he was looking for - Scrimgeour's emergency bunker.
Those same thoughts of Uncle Vernon's World War II documentaries dominated Harry's mind as the airborne combat began in earnest. Below them, the village was inundated with undead, giants, trolls circling around like sharks in the water waiting for the fliers to come crashing down.
He pushed his Firebolt into a dive as the first volley of curses came towards him. Their formation broke. Tonks and Flitwick both went higher and Harry realized his mistake. This wasn't Quidditch. Air superiority was fought from higher position, as several Death Eaters above him tried to rain spells down on him.
Harry accelerated. This was a Firebolt after all and he was at his best on a broom. Threading the alleyway between two burning buildings and over the outstretched hands of some of the milling undead Harry was already climbing as he exited at a speed threatening to throw him from the broom. Marshalling his energy, he cut loose with wedge stunner that knocked two Death Eaters from their brooms and spiraled left, landing ablinding curse on a Troll below. It would make the creature as dangerous to the undead as it did anyone else on the ground. Pulling hard over, he dodged two spells aimed for where he would have been. A tingling sensation washed over his back, and his cloak ripped flapping in the wind, but the dragon hide armor beneath stopped the cutting curse.
The Death Eaters were doing their best to knock people from their brooms or damage the brooms altogether. Harry responded with a vortex of wind that buffeted several of them off course. Spotting a falling comrade, he cast a cushioning charm as someone else slowed Sinistra's descent. She bounced off the now sponge-like surface and immediately began firing a slew of curses at the undead shambling towards her.
Harry closed the distance as a giant was bounding towards his former professor. Harry animated a burning tree and caused it to grapple with the giant slowing it as he pulled over next to her.
She needed no encouragement to leap onto the back of his broom. He heard her apply a sticking charm. "Concentrate on flying. I'll do the fighting!" she spoke in his ear.
Allowing her to be his "gunner," he swerved through the air focusing on his fighting while listening to the steady stream of spells coming from his former teacher. He made a run on a giant and used his wand to send a conjured spear into the creatures shoulder as Sinistra hit it with a barrage of cutting curses and blasters. The lumbering brute staggered, but did not fall.
"Hang on!" he shouted swerving out of the path of the club and feeling her one arm's grip around him tighten. He circled around hearing her shield against something. "I heard a rumor that you used to play Quidditch. What position?"
She answered, "Chaser!"
"Think you could get Fi-Fi-Fo-Fum in the kisser with a runic bomb?"
"I'll do my best."
He detached the device from his bracer and allowed it to grow before handing it to his passenger. Circling around, he pelted it with ice shards causing the giant to howl in pain as Sinistra released. She was trying to get it into the mouth, but it ended up detonating on the creature's misshapen teeth. The roaring pain intensified as much of its lower jaw disintegrated into a bloody mess and it fell to the ground badly injured. Harry was forced into a stomach churning turn to avoid a chunk of masonry hurled by the injured giant's angry cohorts.
They continued swerving in and out of combat. It was difficult to tell who was winning. Unlike those movies Dudley used to watch, there was no way other than looking to tell who was friend or foe. Harry had no doubt that some people would fall to friendly fire.
Harry swung onto the tail of a Death Eater broom rider. His passenger immediately began cursing as the Death Eater tried to outmaneuver Harry. On a lesser broom, Harry likely would not have been able to stay on his target with a passenger, but the Firebolt again proved its worth as a Reductor curse shattered the broom's twigs and sent the enemy rider hurtling to the ground.
He started to congratulate her when a massive explosion buffeted the entire town. A wave of magical energy tore through the earth and sky. The rail station building collapsed in a spray of debris and a giant wave could be seen moving across the lake... People and undead alike were tossed around like children's dolls. Many of the riders were knocked out of the air. For his part, Harry fought for control of the broom as it spiraled out of control. From behind, Sinistra groaned and her grip slackened on him, as she slumped forward.
Her sudden shifting weight caused Harry loose what little control he had left of his speeding broom. The Firebolt slowed only slightly, as they hit the ground hard a few hundred meters from the outskirts of town. There was a column of black smoke rising from somewhere near the edge of Hogwarts and the Forbidden Forest.
Shaking free of the stunning effect of the impact, Harry crawled forward and turned around. Professor Sinistra lay in acrumpled heap. Her legs still magically affixed to his broom. He moved to her side and saw the horrible wound on her back side. Someone had hit her with an awful cutting curse. He quickly closed the gash, but noticed the blood was no longer flowing and merely oozing. Casting adiagnostic spell, he saw she had no pulse.
He dug through her potions pack for anything that would help. Pulling a pair of blood replenishers, Harry forced them down her throat. He cast one enervate and was about to cast a second one when he was forced to dive out of the way of a killing curse.
Spinning there was broom rider landing. He wasn't masked, but he was wearing a Death Eater Cloak. The field had afew Inferii roaming, but none were an immediate threat.
"Hello, Potter. This is a pleasant surprise. I've been looking forward to this." The man walked with aswagger. He looked familiar, but Harry couldn't place him.
"Who are you?" Harry asked, stepping away from Sinistra's body and hoping that he'd done enough to save her. Fighting around her would only lead to certain doom.
"Oh I'm wounded? Of course, you don't recognize me, Darius Longbottom at your service."
Putting the pieces together, Harry fumed, "So, that was your plan all along, stealing someone's body?"
The ex-Vampire shrugged his shoulders, "Actually, this is more of a recent turn of events. Neville would have worked just as well, but I had to do with Frank's body. Is this a good look for me?"
Harry's eyes narrowed. Both kept their wands trained on each other, waiting for the other to make a move.
Darius continued, "The last times we've faced each other, you've had me at a considerable disadvantage. Now let's see whether all this training has done you any good." Darius led with a wave of power. Rather than block, Harry charmed his shoes and leapt over it, firing wildly with a pair of blasting curses
Landing in a crouch, he dived left out of the path of a bonebreaker. Harry took advantage of the grain field he was in to discreetly conjure a snake and command it to attack, a Confundus charm narrowly missed, but the follow on banisher, struck Harry in the arm spinning him backwards and spoiling Harry's cutter.
Neither put much effort into shielding themselves. This was a purely offensive duel. A portion of the wheat around Harry started turning into tentacles forcing Harry to perform amagical leap again. The second wave of power released by Darius struck him in mid-air flinging him ten feet higher.
Harry came down hard on his left ankle and felt ajolt of pain surge up through his leg. With his left hand, he snatched the vial filled with darkness powder and smashed it on the ground while sending a wind gust behind it.
Still inside the boundaries of the Anti-Apparition wards, neither could use that to their advantage. The cloud drifted between the two obscuring their vision. Darius sent several spells ripping through it and his own vortex of air. Harry kept low to the ground and magically repaired his ankle. It wasn't anywhere near Pomfrey's league, but he could use it again and that was what mattered. Another patch of wheat near him began to transform. No risky jump for him this time.
/"Magia Fluctus!" /Trying not to bellow the spell, Harry sent his own wall of moving force through field and the cloud. Tentacle-like grain was ripped from the ground and tossed through the air as the cloud of darkness dispersed. Harry quickly conjured two more snakes hoping that they would blend in with all the chaos.
In reply an Inferius was banished in Harry's direction and an engorgement spell cast on the husk. Harry was suddenly faced with a ten foot tall thing coming at him. Dodging additional spell fire from his enemy, Harry attacked it with a fire whip severing one of the legs. Darius summoned the body of Sinistra still attached to his broom.
"I see your taste in females is improving, Potter. Care to trade this one for your wand?"
"How very disappointing," Lord Voldemort muttered with obvious disdain in his voice. He had burst through the Floo hoping to find Scrimgeour's command bunker. Instead, he found a bolt hole. Three bodies littered the floor. There hadn't been time to sort out who they were, so without much thought he'd struck them down in a barrage of spells.
It had been Scrimgeour's wife and her two bodyguards. He instantly regretted killing her. She could have made a most useful thrall or hostage. At least he can take the body and pretend that she is his hostage.
What the minister doesn't know won't hurt him. Well actually, it just might.
There was a charm on her wedding band preventing him from removing it. He settled for simply removing the entire finger and left it magically floating in the center of the room. Quickly transfiguring her carcass into something more manageable, in this case a large bone, he floated in towards the fireplace while carving a detonation rune into the table and dumping one of the bodies on top of it. It would leave anasty surprise for the person moving the body.
He was stymied at the Floo. It appeared to require a password or passphrase to activate. It was not surprising that the Floo at the Nexus bypassed the entry password requirement. It was afeature of his 'new controlling crystal.' People would still be prompted for a password to enter a 'protected' Floo, but it actually provided no protection at all. He had praised Madame Edgecombe at the time, but now realized that the praise was not entirely warranted, because the exit password remained in effecct. A quick check showed he could neither Apparate nor make a Portkey. Sighing, he tried the door and found it sealed. Again, this added to his frustration and he allowed his impatience to get the best of him.
Seconds later there was merely an empty gap where the door had been. Unfortunately, this triggered the outlying wards.
The full irony of the situation struck him as he lashed out at the wards. The time turner hung impotently around his neck. It could take a person three hours into the past, but then remained useless for nine hours after use. His forces in Hogsmeade would suffer needless casualties without him there.
The Dark Lord seethed in anger. He wanted to rejoin his troops in battle, but now, he was forced to fight his way out of the bolt hole. He cursed his luck and raged against the defenses from the inside out. Defeating the wards would take time that he didn't have. Time was no longer on his side. Time openly mocked Lord Voldemort.
Harry knew Professor Sinistra was likely dead, still he tried to buy some time. He switched to stunners.
"Oh Harry, showing a bit of weakness are you." Instead of dodging, he simply used the floating teacher to shield him. After the second hit he chided Harry, "Oh my, a few more of these and her heart will surely stop. She's looking rather pale as it is. Perhaps you should surrender? Arrgghhh!"
One of Harry's snakes must have finally found its target. They were venomous, but since it was magical it could be countered by either a bezoar or a simple disenchantment. Harry's banisher flung his teacher away from him as Harry charged closing the distance. He felt a renewed surge of energy at the same time he felt the sinking feeling in his stomach. The remaining Dementors had arrived. He could sense them to the East.
With the Dementors, there was an additional well of energy that Harry could draw from. "Attreo Glacis!" A swarm of ice shards larger than he had ever produced emanated from his wand. Longbottom had finished vanishing the snake and dived out of the way of the frozen daggers.
Longbottom responded by transfiguring a pair of rocks into wolves, but Harry decimated them with another ice storm. The Death Eater conjured the first shield blocking a pair of blasting curses, but the power behind them forced him backwards.
Sensing the tide had turned, Harry saw Longbottom summoning a broom, intending to escape. Refusing to let that happen, Harry cast his own summoning charm and the broom halted in midair before snapping under the strain of the magical tug of war. Both combatants stumbled backwards. Regaining their footing, each of them cast their own killing curse, with neither scoring a hit.
Bludgeoners, cutters, and bonebreakers were exchanged like jabs from boxers, each looking for an opening. Harry took a grim satisfaction in realizing that Darius was tiring. He needed to stay smart and he'd wear the man down, unless he could come up with something that Longbottom couldn't block or dodge.
Inspiration struck him like a bludgeoner. He called forth his corporeal Patronus. He had the energy to spare, but he didn't send it racing off to the east after the Dementors. Instead, he sent it right at Longbottom. Momentarily, Harry's opponent seemed to scoff at him, but Harry could visibly see him remembering something very important as the Death Eater attacked the solid Patronus. Harry could feel himself weakening with every spell that hit his construct, but he poured more energy into it, using his magic to keep it together and racing towards the Wizard.
Longbottom's killing curse struck the stag and Harry felt like someone had whacked him in the gut with a cricket bat and sank to the ground, but Prongs continued through it and trampled Darius Longbottom.
Harry rose to his feet as the Patronus continued its brutal assault. Dodging around some of the still animated plants, Harry came closer and commanded Prongs to stop.
Darius was a bloody mess, but still alive. His wand was broken into pieces and even if it was still intact it was doubtful that either of Longbottom's arms could lift them. "Go ahead, Potter. Finish me off!"
"This time, stay dead!" Harry's blasting curses ripped into the dying man. It wasn't like killing Snape. The madness wasn't there this time. He simply used three curses to make certain that Darius Longbottom was good and dead. His only regret is that he let Coedus the Vampire survive the first time. Maybe Neville could rest in piece now.
Pausing for only a scant minute, Harry made sure the deed was done. A diagnostic spell confirmed that Coedus was gone.
His victory was bittersweet as he again checked his Astronomy teacher only to find that she too was dead. Longbottom's body deserved to be zombie food, but she was a hero. He canceled the enchantments that kept her attached to his Firebolt and levitated her onto the back of his Patronus. The stag immediately started towards the castle.
Harry scooped his broom up into his hand. His left hand looked pale and white, almost skeletal. A pang of fear coursed through him. Was he turning? Mounting his broom, Harry had only one thought on his mind, those Dementors needed to be destroyed.
From the battlements of Hogwarts two eyes scanned the darkening battlefield through a pair of Omnioculars. Every now and then, Narcissa Black's eyes would drift down to a piece of red silk tied to her wrist. As long as the silk remained red, Charles was still alive. She had asked him not to go, but he insisted, saying that his parents were in the town. Being pregnant, she did not even consider going and offered no resistance to his demand that she stay at the castle.
She hadn't anticipated this and that shamed her. She prided herself on not being caught with her guard down. Witnessing the savage fury of Dumbledore's phoenix, Narcissa dived behind the stonework for protection as the detonation shattered all the unbreakable windows on the green houses and sent a tremor through the castle. Though the fighter hadn't resembled Dumbledore, she could only assume that he had died.
This complicated things. Would it alter the final outcome she envisioned? Does the plan require adjustments? She fought the tingle of panic by assessing the numbers. In hindsight, the attack made sense from the Dark Lord's point of view. The Ministry's forces were raw, untrained and had no real discipline. They wouldn't be that way forever. She conceded the rational for the attack while her magical vision swept to where the east of the town. The militia struggled with the undead in the village, Dementors from the south, Dark Wizards circling above them and what looked like Vampires and Veela harassing northern flank.
Scrimgeour's "army" was getting humbling experience. They easily had the numbers, but no organization, but Voldemort gambled on delivering a crushing blow and breaking the people's spirit with a massive and symbolic body count. Too many of those"soldiers" out there were youngsters and the true victor of the battle will be the one who convinces the mothers, fathers, and relatives of those that are dead and dying who was to blame. Narcissa gave the edge to Scrimgeour. The Minister had his foot firmly on the throat of the press right now. Voldemort will have to try to get people rioting in the streets.
She looked at an animal approaching the front gates with a body draped on its back. Instinctively, she knew it to be amagical creature. Breathing a sigh of relief, Narcissa knew that Harry Potter was still out there fighting. The plan remained viable. Hope still remained for the "light" side. The ethereal stag faded from view and the body dropped to the ground as figures rushed out of the castle in afrenzied state. Narcissa didn't waste anymore time trying to figure out who that unfortunate soul was. If they were important, she'd know soon enough and if they weren't, it was pointless to wallow in the gory details any more than was required.
Moving the Omnioculars back towards the battle, her grim look was replaced with a more predatory look. The Dark Forces were scattering as the Southern flank of Dementors abruptly began to collapse. It took only moments for her to locate the source of the disruption. Agroup of five fast broom riders darted from the ruins of Hogsmeade, one sending a gigantic stag Patronus thundering through the fleeing Dementors and her heart leapt upon seeing a misty looking dragon shaped Patronus. Charles, his brother and two others were protecting Harry as he obliterated the foul vermin. She caught her breath as a group of Veela hurled a volley of fireballs towards the group.
A massive burst of wind scattered the flaming spheres as Harry Potter turned his wrath on the remaining Vampires and Veelas. The Dark Wizards were already fleeing. Narcissa idly wondered if those remaining realized that they had been "volunteered" for ahopeless rearguard action.
The fighting was dying down. Within ten minutes, there would only be the horror of the aftermath. All of Hogsmeade lay in ruins, but she knew that it wasn't the end - only the beginning of the end. Nervously, she wondered who would stand when all was done.
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